GUADALAJARA, Mexico -- With the bronze medal secured, the players rushed to mid court to celebrate.
There, the United States men's basketball team joined the players from the Dominican Republic, dancing together and hugging each other as the Mexican crowd cheered.
"I overcame tears, because that was a special moment," U.S. coach Nate Tibbetts said after his team beat the Dominicans 94-92 for bronze at the Pan American Games. "It's brotherhood. It's fellowship."
Lance Thomas scored a team-high 14 points Sunday to give the Americans their best finish at the games since a silver in Winnipeg in 1999.
The bronze was a disappointing result for a U.S. team trying to win the Pan American gold for the first time since 1983, but the players who were put together just a few weeks before the tournament said they are leaving Guadalajara glad to have learned from the experience.
"We enjoyed it and it's going to be something that we will remember for the rest of our lives," U.S. guard Justin Dentmon said.
Thomas said the mutual celebration at the end of the match showed how much the Americans embraced the spirit of the Pan Am Games.
"It was amazing, was special to be able to celebrate together afterwards," he said. "They started and we just got in there together. The fans appreciated us being there."
Puerto Rico beat Mexico 74-72 to win the gold later Sunday.
The U.S. team, using players from the NBA Development League, led most of the game but the Dominican Republic had a chance to win on a 3-pointer that just missed at the buzzer.
"We came here and we got a medal, that was one of our goals," Thomas said. "We played a pretty tough Dominican Republic team. They fought until the end."
The Americans were coming off a 71-55 loss to host Mexico in the semifinals and Tibbetts said he was "proud of how the team bounced back" from it.
"We came with a mind set to win gold but that got cut short by Mexico, which played amazing basketball," Thomas said. "We got an opportunity today to make sure we got a medal and we took advantage of it."
The Americans had beaten the Dominican Republic 77-76 in the group stage, but later lost to Uruguay 82-80. They then lost to Mexico in the semifinals.
"We are not satisfied with the result here, but we are proud," U.S. forward Leo Lyon said. "Of course we wanted the gold medal, but we came up short. We've only been together for two weeks so I think that we did a pretty good job for being such a new team."
After a week representing their country, the players now go back to the United States to rejoin the development league.
"We are going back to our original teams in America," Lyon said. "We probably won't be together again but we are playing against each other in the season. It was a blessing to be here and we enjoyed it."