Puerto Rico finally played up to it's potential last night beating Chile 70-60. In what was a critically important game for both teams Puerto Rico played fantastic team basketball. With a sold out arena and thousands of Chilean fans in attendance this was a huge night for Chilean basketball and their U18 team in particular. This team has been nurtured and developed for the last 5 years. Next years' U19 World Championship was the ultimate goal. All Chile had to do was beat Puerto Rico at home to qualify. Puerto Rico played the role of dream killers last night.
Jesus Cruz led Puerto Rico scoring with 15 points. Ethan Thompson had 12 points and 7 rebounds. Cruz, Thompson and Jhivvan Jackson pushed the tempo and attacked holes in the defense. Leandro Allende who sat out of the USA game due to injury made a couple of big three point shots which helped keep Puerto Rico in the game. Jorge Pacheco gave PR some solid play at PG as well.
One the things we saw last night which we didn't see against Team USA was the overall competitive spirit. Puerto Rico is loaded with talent and when they play together and and are locked in defensively, they can compete with anybody in this tournament. The 4th quarter of last night's game was a great example of this. When Chile needed PG Nicolas Aquirre and Center Filipe
Haase to impose their will on the game, Puerto Rico did all the things winning teams do defensively. They communicated at a high level, their defensive rotations were pretty much flawless and they consistently helped the helper. PF Nick Washington, who really gave Puerto Rico nothing against Team USA showed up on the defensive end in a major way. He fought Haase Chile's 6'10 250 pound Center all night for position and took Haase completely out of the game in the 4th quarter. PF Adrian Ocasio also gave Puerto Rico some really productive minutes.
Overall Puerto Rico took a big step in the right direction last night. A win against the USVI this afternoon guarantees them a spot in the U19 World Championship. The US Virgin Islands is not a team to be underestimated. They have not gotten a win yet in the tournament but are talented and could pose some matchup problems for Puerto Rico.