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Scola, Argentina qualify for Olympics

Sep 2, 2007 - 12:10 AM LAS VEGAS (Ticker) -- Argentina secured a spot in the 2008 Olympics and advanced to Sunday's final with a 91-80 victory over Brazil in a FIBA Americas Championship semifinal contest at the Thomas & Mack Center on Saturday.

Luis Scola scored 10 of his 27 points in the third for Argentina (7-1), which defeated Brazil, 84-79, in overtime during a second-round game on Wednesday. But this one was even more important.

The defending Olympic champions now will face the winner of Saturday's second semifinal between the United States and Puerto Rico in the gold-medal game.

After Brazil made it a one-possession game at 81-78 on Tiago Splitter's basket with 1:14 left, Argentina's Paolo Quinteros scored the next five points - on a 3-pointer and two free throws - to give his club an 86-78 lead with 45 seconds remaining.

Argentina went on a 19-3 run during the final 5:11 of the third quarter, coming back from a 53-46 deficit to take a 65-56 lead after three quarters. Scola's jumper with 3:43 left enabled Argentina to take a one-point lead.

"In the third quarter, we lost control," Brazil guard Marcel Machado said. "I think they reeled off eight straight points (10-1 Argentina run). Before the tournament, we talked about not having long stretches of bad moments.

"They took advantage of our bad moments and they deserved the win. We look forward to the Olympic qualifier next year."

Brazil (4-4) will play Sunday against the loser of Saturday's contest between the United States and Puerto Rico in the consolation game. It had to play most of Saturday's contest without 6-11 center Nene, who suffered an injury to his right calf muscle in the first quarter and only played for four minutes.

"Nene hurt his calf muscle," Brazil coach Aluisio Ferreira said. "We do not know the extent of his injury, but he will not play (Sunday). I will evaluate all the players. They are all exhausted physically and mentally, but this team is a proud group of professionals, and I know they will put in their best effort to finish third."

Leandro Barbosa, who entered Saturday's game as the tournament's leading scorer with a 23.5 average, and Alexandre Garcia each had 16 points for Brazil. Splitter collected 15 points and nine rebounds.

"In the second half, we could not convert our fast breaks," Splitter said. "And they started to be more effective in their inside-outside game."

After Scola, who also led his team with nine rebounds, Argentina had Pablo Prigioni with 14 points and five assists, Carlos Delfino with 13 points and four assists and Leonardo Gutierrez with 10 points.

"Now it seems so easy going to the Olympic Games, but at the start of this tournament it was so different, Argentina coach Sergio Hernandez said. "This victory is for all the players on the Argentina national team, including those who didn't come to the tournament.

"Some people think that - having so many talented players - it is difficult to keep them all happy, but I look at it as a positive. Some players really developed in this tournament, and all the players have a chance of going to the Olympics. Everybody is worthy of it."

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