Argentina won its first Olympic men's basketball gold medal by beating Italy 84-69 on Saturday.
The South American champions, whose previous best Olympic finish was a fourth place in 1952, avenged their 76-75 loss to the Italians in the preliminary round.
After ousting the U.S. team of NBA players 89-81 in the semifinal, Argentina was tipped to win the title although Italy saw off European champions Lithuania in the other semi-final.
Luis Scola set the tone of the championship game with 25 points and 11 rebounds for Argentina, which also received lifts from Emanuel Ginobili's 16 and Alejandro Montecchia's 17.
"It's an amazing feeling. It's unbelievable," said Ginobili, San Antonio Spurs guard. "After 52 years without a gold medal in team sports for Argentina, we made it twice in one day."
Argentina lifted the men's soccer crown with a 1-0 win over Paraguay early in the day.
"I want to cry and at the same time I want to laugh. I can't wait to go back to Argentina and see the joy on the face of our people," said Ginobili.
Italy was outscored 24-15 in the fourth quarter, helplessly watching the Argentines pull away to 78-64 with two minutes left on the clock.
"It's the happiest day of my life. My biggest dream comes true," Scola said.
"We played in a great tournament, and we won the gold medal. Athens is the best place in the world."
Matteo Soragna and Gianmarco Pozzecco scored 12 points apiece for Italy, which was overwhelmed by 46-20 in the paint.
Argentina led 34-25 with balanced offense midway in the second quarter, but let the Italians cut the lead to 43-41 at the half.
After tying 51-51 five minutes into the third quarter, Argentina took a tiny advantage of 60-54 to enter the decisive last 10 minutes.
In the bronze play-off, the United States downed Lithuania 104-96.
(Xinhua News Agency August 29, 2004)