Puerto Rico reaches first World Cup quarterfinals

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Puerto Rico is headed to the quarterfinals of the women’s World Cup for the first time. Mya Hollingshed scored 29 points and Arella Guirantes added 18 to lead Puerto Rico to the 92-73 win over South Korea on Tuesday on the final day of pool play.

Puerto Rico (2-3) scored the game’s first 18 points, including 10 by Hollingshed, and never looked back. The team secured the final spot in the quarterfinals that begin Thursday.

“My shot was falling,” Hollingshed said. “I looked up and they hadn’t scored yet.” After the final buzzer sounded, the Puerto Rican players were dancing and celebrating their accomplishment.

In other games Tuesday, the U.S. routed Bosnia and Herzegovina 121-59; China beat Belgium 81-55; Canada topped Mali 88-65; Serbia edged France 68-62. Australia defeated Japan 71-54. FIBA held a draw for the quarterfinals matchups Thursday, announcing Puerto Rico will face Canada. In other matchups, the U.S. plays Serbia; China meets France and Australia plays Belgium.

The Puerto Rican players and coaches hope advancing to the quarters will provide some joy to the island that’s been ravaged by Hurricane Fiona. They won for the first time in the country’s history earlier in the tournament. “Making history now for us, with what our country is going through right now with Hurricane Fiona. It’s monumental and I hope that it brings some joy to the country and that’s all we want to do, through basketball bring some joy,” said Tayra Melendez.

The team was winless in its three games at the 2018 World Cup, losing by an average of nearly 28 points. The team wasn’t even supposed to be in the tournament, but was given a spot when Russia wasn’t allowed to compete following its invasion of Ukraine.

“It means a lot with everything going on on the island,” Hollingshed said. “With everything they are dealing with, we’re playing for more than ourselves. I know everyone’s excited and encouraging us.” South Korea had a scary moment when Yebin Yoon went down on the court, injured after missing a layup. After a few minutes of being looked at by team trainers, she was taken to the locker room. She didn’t return to the game.

CHINA 81, BELGIUM 55

Li Meng scored 16 points and China clinched the No. 2 seed in Group A with its win over Belgium. (4-1) led 50-45 late in the third quarter before a 19-5 run spanning the periods broke the game open. Wang Siyu had five points during the run. Belgium never threatened after that. Kyara Linskens scored 14 points and Julie Vanloo added 13 for Belgium (3-2), which was playing without star Emma Meesseman.—AP

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