Having already made history with its maiden FIBA Basketball World Cup appearance in Okinawa, tiny Cape Verde etched its name in the record books again Monday by becoming the smallest country to ever win a game at the tournament.
Representing the African island nation of less than 600,000 people, head coach Emanuel Trovoada's 64th-ranked team upset No. 17 Venezuela 81-75 at Okinawa Arena, sparking animated celebrations among players and fans.
Cape Verde, having become the smallest nation to play at the tournament just two days earlier and despite its 85-60 loss in the Group F opener to Georgia, gave its traveling fans more to rejoice with Monday's comeback win, built upon a mighty defensive performance by star center Edy Tavares.
Forward Betinho Gomes top-scored with 22, while swingman Will Tavares added 20 as the African side kept its tournament alive and knocked Venezuela out of contention.
"I'm just speechless right now. I'm trying to take it all in," guard-forward Tavares said. "It means so much to my country, to my family, to myself, just representing Cape Verde as a whole."
Trovoada said the team planned to celebrate the moment before focusing on its final Group F game against No. 7 Slovenia and superstar Luka Doncic.
"This is a historic moment for us," Trovoada said. "We are a small nation with a big heart. These amazing athletes, they represented the country in the best way possible."
Referring to the team's nickname, the Blue Sharks, Trovoada said his players will continue aiming to cause an upset when they line up Wednesday against a Slovenian side that has been touted as a medal contender.
"Slovenia is definitely a great team, Doncic is definitely a great player, but we have 12 sharks in the sea and we are hungry," he said.