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Italy ends 25-year dry spell, back in FIBAWC quarterfinals

Italy ended a quarter-century drought by beating Puerto Rico, 73-57, Sunday night to reach the FIBA Basketball World Cup quarterfinals -- its first top eight showing since 1998 in Greece when the tournament was still known as the World Championship. Giampaolo Ricci and Stefano Tonut paced four Italians in double figures with 15 points each. The win at Smart Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City also extended Italy's winning streak over Puerto Rico to 13-1, including the last 13 encounters, seven of which came in the World Cup. Puerto Rico, whose last eight showing came in 2002, beat Italy only once, in the 1963 Brazil World Championship. The Italians have never finished on the World Cup podium. From a 41-43 deficit, Italy unleashed a 16-4 run to move up, 59-47, with eight minutes to go. The veteran Ricci scored 15 points off the bench, including two triples in Italy's decisive run. He also picked up three rebounds and had one block. Italy outrebounded Puerto Rico, 48-29, including 19 offensive rebounds that resulted in a 22-3 advantage in second-chance points. The Europeans also held the Puerto Ricans to just 37-percent shooting from the floor and 23 percent from long range. "I love my players. They are amazing. I have 12 lions on the court, and they love each other. They are really focused on what they are doing. I asked them before the game if they want to continue, and they showed me on the court. And that is desire. We played against a team that played really good tonight. They played really good in this World Cup," said Italy coach Gianmaco Pozzecco. Ricci said they have dreamt about being in the top eight of the World Cup. 'We are just following what the coaching staff is saying. We fight for 40 minutes. Puerto Rico is a great team. They have a lot of talent on offense. It's a team win because we won the game on defense again. They only scored 57 points. That is a great point of emphasis of this game. We are happy and we keep dreaming," Ricci said. Paris-bound Boomers' happy ending In the Okinawa, Japan leg, Australia concluded its campaign with a 100-84 beating of Georgia. Patty Mills finished with 19 points as he bannered the Boomers' balanced offensive attack on the way to ensuring that they leave the Japanese prefecture with a win, serving as a consolation of sorts after seeing their final phase hopes get dashed by Luka Doncic and Slovenia on Friday. Dante Exum had18 points, while Duop Reath came through with 16 as both saved their best for last by turning in their best games in the campaign closer. World Cup rookie Josh Giddey made 15 points while Joe Ingles chimed in 10 points as five players scored in double figures in the win. The victory also marked a double celebration for Mills as he surpassed Dirk Nowitzki, Leo Rautins and his countryman Andrew Gaze as players to have scored 10 or more points in 18 consecutive games in FIBA Basketball World Cup history, breaking the record in his 19th straight game. Ingles achieved a personal feat as well by finishing with 6 assists to move up to fifth in the tournament's all-time assists leaders with 90, getting past Facundo Campazzo (88). Semifinalists of the previous World Cup in China, the Boomers finished at 3-2 and in the coming months, will start their buildup for the 2024 Paris Olympics. "Read a lot and respect everyone's opinion. But what I said to the group inside, I'm not embarrassed. I'm gonna go back to Melbourne with my head high. This isn't a continuation of Rose Gold. I knew when I resigned to come back to this that I'd have to do some nasty stuff and that we would be in a position of change. We're starting over, we're building something exciting and nice and a huge bright side for our next Olympic campaign so there was a lot of good in this," said Australia coach Brian Goorjian.

Source: Philippines News Agency