Rome - The bottom finally caved in for Team USA Basketball last night when Bishop John "Giuseppi" Cantonelli poured in a 15m (47-ft) shot at the end of regulation to send the US squad to their 6th loss in as many outings on the pre-Olympic tour of Europe. The shot spoiled a valiant US comeback that had seen their team down by as many as 18 points early in the 4th quarter.
Allen Iverson led the US with 32 points - 17 in the 4th quarter, but it was too little too late for the US co-captain. "Damn, man! I thought that we had whipped those little white guys in their dresses until that dude hurled in that crazy shot. From my view, I thought that he was walking on the play, but hey, you ain't gonna git that call on the road. No way."
Vatican coach Paolo Santori gave credit to The Almighty. "We certainly had a 6th player on the court all night tonight. I give Him all of the credit in the world for the victory." Santori concedes that he got over-confidant with the large 4th quarter lead. "His Holiness really wanted to play in this big game, and with us up by 18 points with 9 minutes to go, I couldn't see the harm. As it turns out, it didn't hurt us, and His Holiness is very happy that he participated. I made the mistake of putting a few too many Cardinals when he was on the floor, so the blame is mine -- Father forgive me. I am so glad that Bishop John bailed me out."
The Pope was a little too winded to give the post-game benediction, but everyone knew that he was happy. He pulled the oxygen mask up a bit and whispered something. No one could make out what he said, but all could see his wry little smile, and his eyes, and certainly his mind, were very bright.
Larry Brown, coach of the USA team, said that it was back to the drawing board for the team. "We certainly don't have our A-players here on this trip because of terror fears, but they didn't have a guy under 60 on the floor plus all of their African bishops and cardinals were out of town for a huge rally in Cape Town. I guess it's fair to say they were handicapped as well."
"I'm disappointed," Brown continued. "We should have won the game regardless of the location. The refs really didn't hurt us. We just didn't get it done tonight." Brown did point to improvements. "We finally didn't lose by a record amount tonight. That is something we can build on for the game with Lichtenstein on Thursday night."
Look for the US to go with a new line-up on Thursday night. "We are prepping for the Olympics here during these exhibitions," said US center Tim Duncan. "These guys don't play like NBA players. I'm ready to make or swat a 360-dunk or something like that, but these guys are making passes, shooting well, and playing defense, and we just aren't accustomed to this style of basketball. We'll put a few new guys on the floor on Thursday and see what happens. There has got to be a right combo somewhere for us."