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Argentina survives Panama

Aug 27, 2007 - 6:52 AM LAS VEGAS (Ticker) -- The defending Olympic men's basketball champions are one step closer to the 2008 games.

Leonardo Gutierrez had a team-high 22 points and Houston Rockets forward Luis Scola added 20 points and eight rebounds as Argentina finished pool play at the FIBAS Americas Championships undefeated with a 109-92 overtime victory against Panama on Sunday night.

Argentina (4-0) begins second round action Monday against Venezuela. The top two teams of this 10 nation event advance to the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

Argentina received all it could handle from Panama.

Despite leading by 12 points in the first quarter, it could not fight off a Steve Forbes' led rally.

Forbes finished with a game-high 29 points, nine coming in an 18-5 spurt to close the third quarter. Panama led 71-61 with three minutes to play before Argentina flexed its muscles to force overtime.

"Panama has my entire respect," Argentina coach Sergio Hernandez said. "Panama is good team and played hard. They took advantage of our mistakes. We know we didn't play very well today."

Argentina scored the first seven points - five coming from Gutierrez - of overtime and never looked back. It hit six 3-pointers in the extra session.

Carlos Delfino of the Toronto Raptors added 19 points, six assists and five rebounds in the win and reserve Diego Lo Grippo had 15 points and Roman Gonzalez contributed 12.

"Today, I scored more points than normal," Lo Grippo said. "I tried to contribute energy and for that I am satisfied."

The loss eliminated Panama (1-3) from the competition. Puerto Rico and Mexico also finished with 1-3 marks, but Panama came up short on the tie-breaker.

"Tonight we needed a little more experience," Panama coach Vincente Duncan said. "The kids that were on the court got a taste of what it was like to play international ball."

Panama didn't play like one of the tournament's worse teams.

It led for most of the fourth quarter, but allowed Argentina to score 19 points in the final four minutes of regulation to even the score.

Jaime Lloreda had 21 points and Jamahr Warren and Danilo Pinnock each added 12.

"I give credit to my players for fighting through a very demanding game," Duncan said.

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