MANILA, Philippines–Simone Fontecchio erupted for 30 points to grease Italy’s 78-76 win over Serbia in the second round of Fiba World Cup on Friday night.
But much of that stunning comeback wouldn’t have been possible if not for the squad’s aging skipper, Gigi Datome, the Utah Jazz standout said.
“I mean, Gigi is just, you know, simply a legend. What he did today was just a cherry on top of his career which is something unbelievable,” Fontecchio said shortly after the win at Smart Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City.
“He showed us the way. Down 16, no matter what, he kept playing. How old is he? 35? He was just simply amazing, leading by example,” he went on.
Datome, a EuroLeague champion, finished with 10 points, most of it coming in a third-quarter flurry that kept the Eagles within striking range.
It was a timely step-up performance for the veteran, who also played for the Detroit Pistons and Boston Celtics, having been limited to just single-digit outputs before Friday night—including in the win over Gilas a few nights ago.
“He’s our captain, he’s our leader, he’s just the best teammate you could imagine and that really pushed us to find the last stand that we had in our body to make a comeback,” Fontecchio said.
Fontecchio and Datome next play Puerto Rico, which is leading the Dominican Republic in a game that is being played as of press time.
Those three teams and Serbia are in a tight race for a quarterfinal berth that could mean a clash with the favored Team USA, which was severely tested by Montenegro at Mall of Asia also Friday night.
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