September 22, 2022 

How Puerto Rico erased past results in World Cup opener

Guirantes leads team to its first-ever World Cup victory

The expectations for Puerto Rico coming into the FIBA World Cup were not very promising. It was 0-6 as debutants in both the 2018 Tenerife World Cup and 2020 Tokyo Olympics, with losing margins comparable to those of a No. 16 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

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However, in the opening game of the event at Sydney on Thursday, Puerto Rico shot 51 percent in an 82-58 win over Bosnia and Herzegovina. Rutgers alumna Arella Guirantes recorded a near-triple double of 26 points, nine rebounds and eight assists, while Isalys Quinones and Mya Hollingshed each scored 15.

“I am at a loss for words for now because we have been grinding together,” the 24-year-old Guirantes said. “We instilled so much pride in us, and we showed it on the court today. It took a lot of focus and me stepping outside of my comfort zone, trying to make me and my teammates better. I have not taken it for granted since I stepped foot in Australia. I wanted to increase the level of play of everyone around me.”

Puerto Rico lost its opener in 2018 to Belgium, 86-36, and it trailed 48-6 at halftime. Belgium again won the first game of the Olympics, 97-55, and a 35-point loss to China and 27-point loss to Australia ensued. The Puerto Rican team also lost all three of its games in the qualifying tournament earlier this year by 30-point margins. When FIBA banned Russia from competitions in the spring, Puerto Rico received a free pass to the World Cup.

“We are obviously happy,” Puerto Rico coach Gerardo Batista said. “A great win for us and a great win for Puerto Rico basketball. Facing a great team and doing our job and winning, we are very excited. The only way to get better is to play good teams. I see that we are not at that level yet. I tell everyone, we are a team that is not supposed to be here, but we are here. If you are not prepared for us, then you will see what will happen. This gives us hope that we are getting better.”

The win also brings positivity to an island that is facing a category 4 hurricane and mass electrical outages at this time.

Jonquel Jones led Bosnia and Herzegovina with 15 points and eight rebounds. The 2021 WNBA MVP just completed the WNBA Finals on Sunday. Coach Goran Lojo said Jones was very tired because she arrived 15 hours before the game.

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“We will recognize our mistakes from today and build from there,” Lojo added.

The Puerto Rican team will next face the U.S. at 8:30 p.m. ET on Thursday. Team USA opened with an 87-72 win over Belgium. Coach Batista also mentioned Puerto Rico had been playing U.S. college teams, then went to Serbia before playing the scrimmages in Australia. Guirantes, who was not on the Olympic team, said she did not join her teammates until she arrived in Australia.

Written by Scott Mammoser

Scott Mammoser has covered major international events for FIBA, World Athletics and the International Skating Union. He has been to six Olympics and traveled to more than 90 countries.

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