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Italy escapes Angola in tight World Cup opener

Alessandro Pajola scores on a dunk. FIBA
By John Rhey Piamonte

BOCAUE, Bulacan–A strong fourth quarter run propelled world no. 10 Italy to an 81-67 victory against the gritty Angola squad at the start of the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup at the Philippine Arena here on Friday night. 

The Azzurri banked on a crucial 20-10 close-out campaign with Simone Fontecchio leading the pack to pull away late in the game and booking the first win in Group A. 

Forward Fontecchio led the Italian troop after registering a game-high 19 points, alongside five rebounds and two assists. 

Angola put up a gallant stand all throughout the match as the 5”6 revelation Childe Dundao yet again placed the team on his back, knocking down baskets one after the other that kept Italy in distance. 

Starting the final frame on a rampage, Angola capitalized on a string of misses from Italy and a huge triple from Dundao trimmed the lead to only five, 65-60. 

But the veterans of Gil Azzurri made sure that there would be no opener-upsets as a trey from Giampaolo Ricci and a lay-up off Angola’s turnover by Fontecchio sealed the deal for Italy, 77-67. 

The 31-year-old Ricci ended with 12 markers across his name while Stefano Tonut added 18 huge points for Italy. 

Point guard Dundao finished with 19 points, in a losing effort. 

Italy will look to keep its unblemished record alive against the Dominican Republic this Sunday, at the Smart Araneta Coliseum while Angola looks to bounce back as they face the host country Philippines also this Sunday.

Follow him on X: @rhey_piamonte

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