By Nelson Belen, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – On Sunday, August 13th, Brazil’s national (seleção) women’s basketball team suffered a historic defeat, losing 75-68 to Puerto Rico in the bronze medal game of the FIBA Women’s AmeriCup 2017 in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
With the loss, Brazil’s best female basketball players will miss the 2018 FIBA (International Basketball Federation) Women’s Basketball World Cup for only the second time in history and the team’s first absence since 1959.
Only the top three teams in the AmericCup tournament would qualify for the World Cup. And with Argentina and Canada set to face off in the tournament’s gold medal match, Sunday’s bronze medal game between Brazil and Puerto Rico was for much more than a spot on the podium, it was for the last coveted spot in the next World Cup.
The game started great for Team Brazil who got off to a hot start and managed to open a five-point lead in the first quarter. But, Puerto Rico scratched and clawed their way back into a tie in the second quarter as Brazil went scoreless for three minutes.
The game was tied 30-30 to start the second half and remained nip-and-tuck going into the fourth. As the game entered crunch time, however, the seleção appeared to wither under the pressure, turning over the ball at several key moments and missing pivotal free throws, including the team’s top scorer Kelly Santos.
As Brazil wilted, Puerto Rico shined, most notably Ali Gibson, who finished the game with five three-pointers. With the win, Puerto Rico punched their ticket to the next World Cup, while Team Brazil will be forced to watch from home for the first time in 58 years.
The 2018 FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup will take place in Spain from September 22nd to 30th, with sixteen teams from around the world battling to be crowned world champions. Formerly called the FIBA World Championship for Women, this will be the 18th edition of what is considered the premier international basketball tournament for women.
Fourteen of the 16 participants for the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup 2018 are now known, with the remainder to be determined at the FIBA Women’s AfroBasket 2017 tournament beginning Friday, August 18th.