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P.R. Wins Centrobasket Gold Medal In Undefeated Fashion

By Gabrielle Paese

June 27, 2003
Copyright © 2003 PUERTO RICO HERALD. All Rights Reserved.

So much for the tiny David mentality. Puerto Rico was a giant Goliath last week, clubbing frail rivals to win the Central American-Caribbean, centrobasket, regional basketball title in Culiacan, Mexico, in undefeated fashion.

Nothing less was to have been expected. Not since 1995 has Puerto Rico sent in its entire list of A-team players for a Centrobasket tournament. The regional event is considered to be of lesser importance in the island's grand scheme of basketball, and generally provides younger prospects an opportunity to post up and gain experience.

Not this time around. Puerto Rico's army overpowered all rivals -- it's only close call being a one-point victory over the U.S. Virgin Islands, 87-86. In that game, Puerto Rico blew an 18-point lead.

The Centrobasket title is Puerto Rico's second straight. Although past incarnations of the island quintet have been given to squabbling and infighting, it was all peace and love for coach Julio Toro's charges this time around.

It's a good thing. Puerto Rico has one more tuneup, the Pan Am Games in August, before it meets the best of the Americas, including the U.S. Dream Team. San Juan will play host to the Olympic qualifier for this hemisphere in late August.

Clemente Coliseum the venue for NBA exhibition game Oct. 7

The three-decades old, 12,000-seat Roberto Clemente Coliseum and NOT the new, monstruous Puerto Rico Coliseum in Hato Rey will serve as the venue for the NBA's Oct. 7 exhibition game between the Miami Heat and the Philadelphia Sixers, the NBA announced this week.

The new coliseum, which has been under construction for more than four years, won't be ready until December.

This is the fourth NBA exhibition game held on the island and the 21st held in a Latin American country. All of Puerto Rico's NBA events have been held at Clemente Coliseum.

Puerto Rico first hosted an NBA game in 1993, featuring the Denver Nuggets versus the Miami Heat. in 1994, the Atlanta Hawks and the Heat played on back-to-back nights.

Mexico City will host the only other NBA exhibition game on the agenda. The Dallas Mavericks will take on the Utah Jazz in Mexico on Oct. 5. The other exhibition games will be played in Barcelona, Spain (Memphis vs. Barcelona), and Paris (San Antonio vs. Memphis), according to Arturo Nunez, NBA's general director for Latin America. The NBA will open its season in Japan with the Los Angeles Clippers versus the Seattle Supersonics.

Tickets for the event go on sale Saturday and the prices make an Expos game in San Juan look like a bargain.

The average ticket price for the Oct. 7 game is $80 -- general admission is $35 while courtside seating is $150. The NBA average ticket price is $51.02, according to Team Marketing Report, which monitors the costs of tickets in sports league. Of the major sports leagues in the United States, NBA tickets are the priciest.

The $35 general admission fare for this one-time exhibition game is costlier than the Expos in San Juan series, with its $25 upper tier seats and $10 bleacher seats.

Major League Baseball took plenty of heat over the high cost of Expos tickets for games here in San Juan, especially considering that the island's median household income is $14,412 and 44.6 percent of all households live below the federal poverty level, according to Census 2000 data.

Tickets for the NBA exhibition game are substantially more than those for the August Tournament of the Americas, the Olympic qualifier which will feature the U.S. Dream Team as well as the national teams of the other countries in this hemisphere vying for berths in Athens.

Those Olympic Qualifier tickets, for games in which the Sixers' Allen Iverson, New Jersey's Jason Kidd and Utah's Karl Malone will play, start at $16-$18 for general admission and are priced up to $50-$65 for bottom tier seating in the same Clemente Coliseum.

"We had a study done and the ticket prices are about even with what the NBA charges," said Angel "PeeWee" Perez, of Angelo Medina Productions, the promoter of the NBA and Olympic Qualifying events. "Obviously the floor seating is very limited and that's why it's so high. But the general admission prices [for the NBA exhibition game] are very accessible."

Montilla, Calbeto take tennis championships

Gabriel Montilla defeated Luis Haddock, 6-1, 6-2 to win his third Puerto Rico tennis title in four years. The two have faced each other in the finals, with Montilla winning, on all three occasions. Montilla has been playing on the ITF circuit for the past three years and is ranked 745th. Haddock is a senior at Notre Dame University.

Maria "Beba" Calbeto, who made her Federation Cup debut this year, beat Bianca Gorbea 6-4, 6-2 in the women's final. Both will be juniors in high school this fall. Calbeto is 6-2 this year with victories in the 18-and-under final and the junior Fed Cup qualifying final. Gorbea won the Puerto Rico women's singles title in 2000. She beat Calbeto this year in the 16-and-under final.

Lizardi wins ninth P.R. gymnastics title

Puerto Rico's most decorated gymnast, Diego Lizardi, won his ninth senior title this past weekend, beating out Luis Felipe "Tingui" Vargas in the all-around. Lizardi, a 1999 Pan Am Games bronze medallist, is returning to competition after breaking his leg in mid-competition last winter during the 2002 Central American-Caribbean Games. Lizardi was unable to finish the all-around, but his scores contributed to Puerto Rico's team gold medal at that meet for his second straight CAC Games gold. Lizardi's all-around score was 53.35. Vargas, who helped Penn State win a Big Ten gymnastics title in his freshman year this year, was second with a score of 52.80. This meet is a qualifier for the Pan Am Games in August in Santo Domingo.

P.R. hosts Americas Cup amateur golf tournament

The first ever Americas Cup golf tournament got under way this week at the Westin Rio Mar golf courses with participants from all over the Americas, from Canada to Chile. The best amateur golfers are playing on some of Puerto Rico's finest courses -- the Greg Norman-designed River course and the George and Tom Fazio-designed Ocean course.

Puerto Rico Golf Association president Sidney Wolf considers the event a practice run for the World Amateur Golf Championships, which Puerto Rico will host next year.

Max Alverio and Rob Slavonia make up the local team. Alverio, 18, the recent winner of the Island Amateur title, is Puerto Rico's most promising young golfer. He will attend the University of Alabama on a golf scholarship this fall, and practically grew up on the golf courses at Palmas del Mar. The two earned the right to represent Puerto Rico by finishing on top at the local qualifier held last week in Rio Mar.

The tournament will feature the best amateurs from 19 countries. Among them is Ricky Barnes, the U.S. Amateur champion, Ryan Moore, the U.S. public links champion, Becky Lucidi, the U.S. women's Amateur champion and Kathy Hartwiger, the women's Mid-Amateur champion.

Argentina's women's team features 30-year old Maria Olivero, who has already garnered seven Argentine match-play titles and her team partner, Nora Ventureira, who is that country's current national champion. Representing Canada is 23-year old Laura Matthews, who finished seventh at the 2002 World Amateur Team championships and is paired with 21-year-old Lisa Meldrum, who already has two Canadian amateur titles to her credit.

This four round, 72-hole stroke play championship will award individual and team titles for men and women. Similar in format to next year's World Amateur Team Championships to be played at the Hyatt Cerromar and Dorado Beach courses, aggregate scoring determines winners in both men's and women's categories.

This event is the first for the newly formed Americas Golf Association, which this week named Worden Teasdale, past president of the Royal Canadian Golf Association and Mark Lawrie, executive director of the Argentine Golf Association, as co-secretaries.

Teasdale stressed the organization's commitment to the sport's development, especially for amateur golf, in the Americas.

This will mean a great deal more help for emerging golf nations throughout our continent. We will be putting particular emphasis on promoting junior golf, providing teaching facilities to a wide range of youngsters as well as helping juniors gain greater access to golf facilities," said Teasdale.

The Americas Cup, the organization's jewel event, was established to showcase the continent's top juniors, Teasdale said.

"The support the AGA has received from the USGA [U.S. Golf Association] in this venture has been extremely important," said Teasdale. "This week, for our first event, we have four reigning U.S. Amateur champions, including Ricky Barnes, who had such great success two weeks ago at the U.S. Open."

Argentina, Bahamas, Barbados, Brazil, Canada, Cayman Islands, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Jamaica, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Puerto Rico, Trinidad & Tobago, U.S. Virgin islands, United States, Uruguay and Venezuela are the founding members.

Gabrielle Paese is the Assistant Sports Editor at the San Juan Star. She is the 2000 recipient of the Overseas Press Club's Rafael Pont Flores Award for excellence in sports reporting. Comments or suggestions? Contact Gabrielle at

Her Column, Puerto Rico Sports Beat, appears weekly in the Puerto Rico Herald.

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