Two outsiders tackled each other in the final game of the day – both Sweden and Puerto Rico having reached the knockout phase after not competing in the 2016 Olympics. Their respective stars, Sterling Bengtzing (Marbled Polecat, C/F) and Vera La Tiérra (Red Fox, G), have proved their worth this far – but at the same time they’ve shown they’re more than willing to let their teammates shine, both team coming forward as pretty united throughout the first phase and succeeding in earning a qualification very few people would have considered possible on the eve of the tournament.
Earlier on in the first quarter, that became apparent as Ricardo Rodrigues (Black Barbary Lion, G), an FBA veteran who’s fallen by the sidelines after six years in the league yet was asked back on the starting line after the serious injury that plagued Bayley Rivera (Gray Wolf, G) during the group phase, kicked off with what probably turned into the best game of his career. The bulky feline was everywhere, playing circles around Ojvind Holmgren (Brown Squirrel, G) and even feeding of La Tiérra nicely in a couple occasions – though the vulpine didn’t have a good night, going just 1-for-6 from the field as she racked up 11 points and 5 assists in 26 minutes of play.
The game seemed a lock for Puerto Rico as they finished the first half up by 30, but Sweden valiantly fought to the end thanks to the grits and determination of Bengtzing – the marbled polecat fighting on every ball and never stopping to encourage his teammates on good plays, the Scandinavians soon starting to claw back in an unusually low-scoring second half. While the Puerto Ricans sort of lacked in concentration and grew fatigued as their starters were forced on the court for longer streaks, it was too little too late for the Swedes as Vera, Ricardo and the rest managed to claim a 97-78 win and a surprising qualification to the semifinals – where they will be facing Canada in an all-American match-up for a shot at Olympic gold.
-M. Chen, FurryOlympics.com