Argentina arrived at the Pan American Games with the aim of defending the title they won four years ago in Lima, though with a team that bore little resemblance to the one from that time. In the Peruvian capital, the Albiceleste could count on almost all of its stars such as Facundo Campazzo, Gabriel Deck (Real Madrid, Spain), Nico Laprovittola (Barcelona, Spain), Nico Brussino (Gran Canaria, Spain), and even the legendary and now retired Luis Scola.
On the other hand, Venezuela had nothing to lose after surprising Brazil in the semifinals (77-84) and making it to their first-ever Pan American final. In fact, they had never before graced the podium. The task was undeniably challenging, as the Argentines grew stronger throughout the tournament after struggling in the first-phase matches (a 95-88 victory over Venezuela in overtime, a 77-85 win against Panama, and an 82-81 triumph over the Dominican Republic, also in extra time). However, in the semifinals, they put on a show against Mexico (108-73).
The ‘Vinotinto’ knew how to respond in the second quarter when they found themselves down 27-17 with 6:45 left before halftime, amidst Santiago Scala’s (SESI Franca, Brazil) surge, narrowing the gap to just two points with an 8-0 run (27-25), capped off by a three-pointer from José Ascanio (Guaros, Venezuela).
The champions wasted no time in reacting, and at halftime, the scoreboard displayed a 43-34 lead, with Franco Baralle, the talented point guard who signed with Brazil’s Minas Storm the previous summer, scoring eight points in quick succession.
The third quarter was the definitive blow with a 27-10 run that ultimately dashed any hopes for the Venezuelan side. They managed to reduce the deficit by 12 points in the final quarter, ending with a 79-65 scoreline, perhaps scant for what was witnessed in Polideportivo 1.
Argentina thus secured their second consecutive gold and third overall in a stellar collective performance. Standouts included Franco Lugarini (Argentinean Weber Bahia) with 17 points and six rebounds, Baralle contributing 15 points with a 3/7 record in three-pointers, and the colossal Javier Saiz from Argentina’s Regatas de Córdoba, who secured 12 points and 10 rebounds. On the Venezuelan side, Garly Sojo was the top performer with 17 points, a player drafted by the NBA in 2021.
This success may not erase the disappointments of failing to qualify for the World Cup earlier in the autumn, and, more significantly, for the Paris Games. Nonetheless, winning is always pleasing, and the Argentinians have done it by being the best in the tournament.