Saturday, 5 September 2009

"Beyond Words"

Doug Smith's article in the Toronto Star on Canada's big win

Canadians nab berth at basketball worlds

`It's beyond words,'says Anderson after victory earns ticket to Turkey

A group of unheralded players, lacking a transcendent star and relying on a different player to lead them almost every night, has returned Canada to the world basketball stage.

In a game fraught with tension and significance for the future of a senior program that's fallen on hard times for almost a decade, Canada beat the favoured Dominican Republic 80-76 in San Juan, Puerto Rico, last night to earn a berth at the men's world championships next summer.

For a senior program that hasn't played a full international event since a 13th place finish among 16 teams at the 2002 world championships, earning a spot at Turkey's 2010 worlds is a huge step.

"It's beyond words," said point guard Jermaine Anderson of Toronto, who led Canada with 21 points. "We finally accomplished something as a group."

Anderson, who has had to work in the shadow of the iconic Steve Nash as Canada's starting point guard for years, responded with one the best games of his international career when it mattered most.

The 6-foot-2 Anderson also had five three-pointers in eight attempts after coming into the game shooting just 3-for-21 from beyond the arc in the first seven outings of the tournament.

"To be honest, I came into this game just a little bit more loose," he said. "Coach said the pressure was all on them ... and to just come in and play and have fun."

Canada trailed by five at the half but, led by 11 third-quarter points from Anderson, went on a 17-7 blitz to start the second half and take command of the game.

The Dominican Republic pulled within two with just over a minute left before Canada hung on.

"It's funny, during the course of a game, we just felt a calm," head coach Leo Rautins said in a telephone interview.

"It was just fun to watch."

Andy Rautins and Joel Anthony each made crucial free throws in the final 20 seconds as Canada withstood a late Dominican rally. Carl English had 13 points for Canada, while Jesse Young added 12.

Canada will play a semifinal game tonight and play for either gold or bronze tomorrow to wind up the tournament.

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