Day 4 Men: PUR 87 - AUS 82
ATHENS (Olympics) - Shane Heal's international career is about to end, but Carlos Arroyo's is going into overdrive. Longtime Australian hero Heal and the Boomers destructed again on offence late in the game as Puerto Rico fought back from a 13-point deficit to prevail 87-82 and reach the quarter-finals at the Olympics.
Arroyo, the inspiration behind Puerto Rico's stunning victory over the United States in the first game of the tournament, made key plays down the stretch again and finished with 17 points and seven assists.
Australia, now in a new era following the international retirements of players like Andrew Gaze and Luc Longley, scored just 14 points in the final quarter and only four over the last five minutes and 45 seconds.
Brian Goorjian's Aussies encountered similar problems in defeats to Greece and Team USA.
They came into this contest with just one win, against African champions Angola, and needed to prevail to stay alive in the race for a quarter-final place.
"All three years of our work came down to this game, and we were not able to win it," Goorjian said. "As I have said before, Australia is not the powerhouse it used to be following the loss of great players.
"It has become a constant for us in this tournament to shoot badly and play impatiently in the fourth quarter."
Julio Toro's island team from the Americas, who began their Olympic campaign with a 92-73 upset of the United States, have now won three of their four games, their only defeat coming against Lithuania.
Australia were in front by 12 at 66-54 late in the third quarter when teen sensation Andrew Bogut passed to David Andersen for a basket in the lane.
Australia were then outscored 11-4 over the next two and a half minutes, with Arroyo's jump shot two seconds before the end of the quarter cutting the deficit to 68-65.
In the fourth, Puerto Rico continued to trail until Larry Ayuso, one of the team's explosive guards who played college basketball for the USC Trojans in California and has spent the majority of his career in Europe since, buried a three-pointer for a 79-78 advantage with 3:21 on the clock.
Heal responded with a basket at the other end for a Australia, but Puerto Rico moved in front for good at the 2:21 mark when Arroyo scored on a drive in the lane and was fouled.
He made the free throw for an 82-80 advantage.
The Aussies had a chance to tie the game in the final 28 seconds.
Ayuso, fouled by Jason Smith, had made one of two from the line for an 85-82 lead.
Following a timeout by Goorjian, the Boomers brought the ball up the floor and Heal worked free to launch a three-point attempt but he was off target and the Aussies, forced to foul, watched Ayuso make two more free throws for the final.
"The game should have never gone to Shane's three-pointer," Goorjian said. Matthew Nielsen led Australia with 20 points, while Daniel Santiago had 20 for Puerto Rico.
From Jeff Taylor, PA International, Athens Exclusively for FIBA
Daniel SANTIAGO (PUR), Center
On his team qualification in the quarterfinals:
"We are very excited that we made it. We have a lot of work to do. We are going to compete against strong teams. We have to be ready and focus fir the next phase. We are moving game by game. Now, we have to confront Greece and its fans. We must collect as many points as we can for the cross-over."
Carlos ARROYO (PUR), Guard
On the way to the next phase:
"We made four exciting games and we managed to get to the quarterfinals. We played really hard, we never give up and we have a lot of passion to our game. The tournament is very competitive, most of the teams are equal and you never know what it is going to happen."
|Press Conference quotes:|
Jose ORTIZ, Forward (PUR)
"It was a game with lots of ups and downs. We started in an irregular way, but in the second haf we improved on defense and moved the ball better. It has been a long way for me, that lasted 22 years with the national team. In Seoul, in 1988, we were 7th, and maybe I will close my national team career with a good tournament. I am proud of myself, my peers, and proud to represent Latin America. Daniel SANTIAGO had a great game. He is already a veteran, since he had competed in 1996 in Atlanta, and although he needs to work a little more on defense he will be more and more necessary for the team in the future."
Shane HEAL, Point Guard, team captain (AUS)
"It is disappointing for us not to make the final eight. Puerto Rico played well when it counted. The coach picked me to take the last shot but I wasn't able to connect. I will repeat what I said after every game in this tournament: We lack experience, we lack consistent execution. Eighty-seven points are too many, you need to play better defense to get to the final four."
Julio TORO, Head Coach (PUR)
"This will be a game to remember. We fell behind in the beginning and should trail by 20 points, but we stuck to the game and made some adjustments and managed to get close despite not shooting too well. We achieved our goal partially by making the quarterfinals, and now we can dream about our next opponent. We will have to play to our full potential to keep going. Today we showed more of a team attitude, and I liked the fact that we communicated more. The game against Greece will be very important for us, since if the United States beat Lithuania tonight we can go for first place with a win. But it will be hard with 15,000 spectators rooting against us."
Brian GOORJIAN, Head Coach (AUS)
"All three years of our work came down to this game, and we were not able to win it. As I have said before, Australia is not anymore the powerhouse it used to be, following the loss of great players. It has become a constant for us in this tournament to shoot badly and play impatiently in the fourth quarter. The game should have never gone to Shane (HEAL's) three-pointer. I tried to rest him, and when he came back we were in deep trouble. Our team never quit, played hard, showed that it has a future in players like Andrew BOGUT or Matt NIELSEN, but at this time it just doesn't have what it takes to win big games. We have to produce a big caliber guard to replace Shane (HEAL) when he retires. I don't know anything about my future with the national team. I enjoyed working with the team a lot and I am holding my head high for what I've done, but our goal was higher and we haven't accomplished it."
Source: Athens News Service