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FIBA Americas Championship 2011: Brazil, Argentina Punch Tickets To London Olympics With Semifinal Wins

Brazil and Argentina will join the United States in representing the Americas region at the 2012 London Olympics, thanks to wins by the rivals in the semifinals of the 2011 FIBA Americas Championship on Saturday. Brazil held off the Dominican Republic 83-76, thanks largely to point guard Marcelinho Huertas, who had eight points and two assists in the fourth quarter and 19 and seven for the game. Huertas was joined by veteran wing Marcelo Machado (20 points in 25 minutes off the bench) atop the ledger.

The Dominicans, who had handed Brazil its only loss in the tournament in the group stage, fell short despite a monster performance by Jack Michael Martinez (18 points, 15 rebounds) and expectantly solid work from Al Horford (18 points, seven rebounds). The D.R. has never made the Olympics in men's basketball; coach John Calipari of the University of Kentucky will now have to qualify via next July's last-chance qualifying tournament, where three bids will be up for grabs.

In the other semifinal, host Argentina just edged Puerto Rico 81-79. The P.R. had given Argentina its only test in the first round (another two-point win for the hosts), and the match lived up to its billing. Argentina took a 77-66 lead on a Pablo Prigioni three-pointer with just under seven minutes remaining, but the Puerto Ricans stormed back, scoring nine straight to pull within two. But Luis Scola scored his final and most important bucket to stop the bleeding with four minutes left; the Rockets forward had 27 on the game.

After buckets were exchanged, Renaldo Balkman blocked a Manu Ginobili shot in the paint, leading to a Daniel Santiago basket to tie it up at 79. But after a Scola miss, Santiago turned the ball over with a shot for the P.R. to take a lead in the final 75 seconds; Ginobili drew a foul and hit one of two. Carlos Arroyo had two shots to give Puerto Rico a lead, but both came up empty. After Prigioni hit one of two with six seconds left to extend the lead to two, J.J. Barea last-ditch shot missed and Argentina moved on to the championship round.

Like the D.R., Puerto Rico will attempt to qualify for London in July's qualifying tournament. Brazil and Argentina will meet on Sunday to play for the Americas championship.