Mexico achieved a breakthrough victory in the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023, edging out New Zealand with a score of 108-100 to kick off the classification phase at the SM Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City on Thursday.
The 12 Guerreros now hold a 1-3 win-loss record, placing them in a joint-second position with the Tall Blacks.
Mexico had a scorching first half, with Pako Cruz and Fabian Jaimes scoring 14 and 13 points respectively. This propelled them to a commanding 57-41 lead at halftime.
“We came back to our style, the way we used to play and we are very happy. This is for all the fans, the people supporting us on the good moments and the bad moments. This is for them,” said head coach Omar Quintero.
New Zealand managed to reduce their deficit to just 10 points by the end of the third quarter, primarily due to three-pointers from Jordan Ngatai, Shea Ili, and Finn Delany, bringing the score to 68-78.
However, the 31st-ranked Mexican team displayed remarkable composure, countering every run made by the Tall Blacks in the fourth quarter to secure their inaugural win.
Cruz delivered a sensational performance, contributing 27 points, five assists, four rebounds, and three steals.
Jaimes, on the other hand, came close to achieving the first-ever World Cup triple-double, amassing 17 points, 11 rebounds, and seven assists.
Paul Stoll contributed 14 points and eight assists, while Gabriel Giron and Joshua Ibarra each scored 16 points.
Despite the loss, Reuben Te Rangi was a standout for New Zealand, scoring 32 points, including six three-pointers. Delany contributed 19 points, while Ili recorded 18 points and 10 assists.
Both teams will conclude their appearances on the global stage on Saturday. New Zealand will take on Egypt at 4:45 PM, followed by Mexico facing Jordan at 8:30 PM.
Mexico 108 – Cruz 27, Jaimes 17, Ibarra 16, Giron 16, Stoll 14, Bonilla 10, J. Gutierrez 3, Mendez 3, I. Gutierrez 2, Camacho 0.
New Zealand 100 – Te Rangi 32, Delany 19, Ili 18, Wetzell 9, Fotu 8, Le’Afa 5, Ngatai 5, Smith-Milner 3, Harris 1, Cameron 0, Brown 0, Britt 0.
Quarterscores: 31-22, 57-41, 78-68, 108-100.