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MANILA, Philippines — In the lead-up practices towards the FIBA World Cup, Dominican Republic head coach Nestor Garcia would complain of his players’ perceived lack of maturity.
“I want to kill these guys every practice,” quipped the veteran mentor.
However, come game time, it seemed that the players would shift to a new gear and turn up the ante.
Keeping their poise was the biggest factor in the world No. 24 Dominicans’ 87-82 upset of the 10th-ranked Italy on Sunday, August 27, bolstering their second-round bid, just a couple days after disposing of the Philippines, 87-81.
Dominican wraps up its first-round Group A assignment against Angola on Tuesday, August 29.
The Dominicans bucked a slow start against Italy, even trailing 0-12 to start the contest.
Guard Andres Feliz suddenly found his mark and launched a barrage of threes to pull the team within striking distance, and by halftime, they were just behind one.
As the third quarter rolled, so did the Dominicans, with Feliz being backstopped by NBA superstar Karl-Anthony Towns.
When the final buzzer sounded, the two combined for 48 points, more than half of the point production.
The other side also lost its cool, having been called for several technical and unsportsmanlike fouls that even led to the ejection of Italy coach Gianmarco Pozzecco.
When it was all said and done, the team got its first-ever win against Italy, according to Garcia.
“The attitude is very important for us and we played together and faster. I’m very happy today, because the Dominican Republic never beat Italy in history, for us, it’s something unbelievable,” remarked Garcia.
“I’m happy because you know when we’re gonna play, they are like my sons, they follow my instructions,” raved the coach.
“They make me suffer all week but when they play, they make me happy. God, I love my players.” — Rappler.com