CARACAS (FIBA Basketball World Cup Americas Qualifiers 2019): Venezuela are at the doorsteps of securing their place in the 2019 World Cup in China after defeating Canada, 84-76, at Parque Miranda in Caracas — a stadium that was overflowing with people that occupied its maximum capacity.
With this victory, the Vinotintos are now Group F’s absolute leaders with an 8-1 record, while the Canadians (7-2) are occupying the second spot, which they share with Brazil.
Venezuela were able to bring the North Americans to their terrain by making them uncomfortable with their defense and collective approach in the attack. Roy Rana's players, leaders in points during the Americas Qualifiers with more than 93 points per game, couldn’t be as effective.
As for the locals, six players ended with double figure points, led by captain José Vargas with 15, followed by Dwight Lewis with 14, his brother Gregory with 13 and Jhornan Zamora with 12.
Gregory Echenique was also outstanding, with 10 units and 12 rebounds in a great duel against defensive specialist Joel Anthony.
The youngest of the Vargas was vital, scoring nine of his 13 points in the final quarter; and was also essential in the defensive side when containing the Canada point guards in the first line.
Coach Fernando Duró, in the definitive stretch of the game, betted on using double point guards — Heissler Guillent and the younger Vargas brother, which allowed Venezuela to have a better ball rotation and defense in the perimeter. They were also able to contain the offensive rebounds of their rivals, who in the first half of the game had managed to catch 13.
Of those nine points in Vargas’ last act, five were in the last two minutes. He first scored two points to distance Venezuela, 79-71, with 1:35 left on the clock, and then, with 18.8 seconds remaining, scored a pair of free throws to maintain that distance, 81-73.
As for Canada, former NBA player Kyle Wiltjer was the greatest scorer, with 21 points. Phil Scrubb contributed 16 and Brady Heslip 14.
Venezuela will now travel to face the Virgin Islands on Monday, with the objective of ensuring their ticket to the World Cup stage, and Canada will now journey to Brazil.