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Monday, March 14, 2016
Guaros de Lara is the 2016 DIRECTV Liga de las Americas Champion
by: FIBA
BARQUISIMETO (Liga de las Americas) - Venezuelan basketball is still on a roll. This past weekend Guaros de Lara became the first club in the country to win the DIRECTV Liga de las Americas by defeating defending champion Bauru 84-79 in the finale.

It all started on Friday in the competition’s Final4, when the team beat Mogi das Cruzes 81-73 in front of a packed Domo Bolivariano and with a magnificent performance from its two North American stars Damien Wilkins and Tyshawn Taylor, who scored 28 points each in the victory.

Former Liga de las Americas MVP Shamell Stallworth came up big for Mogi with 31 points and 11 rebounds but it was not enough against a big second half from Guaros that included some key defensive stops and an effective transition game from the home team. 



The other Final4 match-up, featuring the past two continental champions in Bauru and Flamengo, will go down as one of the most historic comebacks in the competition.

Flamengo came out strong and took advantage of a Bauru squad that was hampered by the loss of their leading scorer Rafael Hettsheimeir in the previous week. The Rio de Janeiro club dominated the second and third quarter with effective versatile attack headlined by Olivinha, Jerome Meyinsse and point guard Rafael Luz. 


Bauru stayed patient, executed down the stretch and what was a 17-point Flamengo lead in the third quarter quickly evaporated. A 13-3 run in the fourth put Bauru only one point behind in the scoreboard 77-78 with 34 seconds to go. Out of a time-out, national team forward Leo Meindl got the ball and this happened:



Bauru won the game 83-81 and set the stage for a Grand Finale showdown the following night against inspired host Guaros de Lara.

The Brazilian club was unfortunately hit with the bad news that star point guard Ricardo Fischer would not be able to play due to a knee injury he sustained late in the Final4 game against Flamengo. It was a big loss for a team that had arrived in Barquisimeto without its second point-guard Paulinho Boracini, who stayed home in Bauru also dealing with an injury.

Bauru’s plan was to have veteran Alex Garcia handle the point. And it worked. The Brazilian club came out sharp Grand Finale against Guaros with a 23-16 first quarter. The host answered with a 17-10 second quarter and a 16-point first half performance from Zach Graham.



It was a tied game at halftime.



The defensive intensity was picked up by the home team in the second half and it made a difference. The physicality of Guaros forced Bauru to get in foul trouble early in the third quarter. That was key against a short-handed Bauru squad that was put in the position of giving minutes to the younger players in their roster.

In came Wesley Sena and Guilherme Santos, 19 and 18-years old respectively and even though they competed, Guaros took advantage of their inexperience and pressured the ball causing key turnovers in the closing moments. It ignited an effective transition game for the hosts.



Guaros had a five-point lead with two minutes to go and Bauru could not fight back anymore. The celebration began in the Domo Bolivariano for what was to become a historic moment in Venezuelan basketball.



Guaros de Lara won the 2016 DIRECTV Liga de las Americas Championship by the score of 84-79 against Bauru. The first time ever for a Venezuelan club and for coach Nestor “Che” Garcia, who had been in the Final4 of the competition twice before with Uruguay’s Bigua and Mexico’s Halcones de Xalapa.

Third time was the charm for Garcia, now a hero and a legend in the country after having won both the South American Championship in 2014 and the FIBA Americas Championship in 2015 with the national team, and now the DIRECTV Liga de las Americas in 2016 with Guaros.



Damien Wilkins was named MVP of the competition, after averaging 17.9 points and 5.4 rebounds per game. He was huge this weekend in both victories with 28 and 20-point performances respectively.



Guaros now join Argentina’s Peñarol (2008-2010) and Regatas (2011), Brazil’s UniCEUB (2009), Pinheiros (2013), Flamengo (2014) and Bauru (2015), and Mexico’s Pioneros (2012) in the circle of continental champions.

Earlier in the day, Mogi das Cruzes defeated Flamengo by the score of 73-71 to win the bronze medal of the competition.

For the most complete coverage and recap of the 2016 DIRECTV Liga de las Americas, visit ligamericas.com.


FIBA

 



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