Thursday, 3 September 2009

Canada down but not yet out

Despite yesterday's loss, with victories over Panama and Dominican Republic, Canada can squeeze into a three-way tie for fourth place and then a tiebreaker will decide the final qualifier for Turkey (assuming no further upsets it appears Puerto Rico, Brazil and Argentina are in).

I was away from the computer all day but did watch today's game and will have thoughts tomorrow. Here is Canada Basketball's official release:


(San Juan, Puerto Rico) Canada’s Senior Men’s National Team played three strong quarters of high-energy, team basketball, but ultimately Leandro Barbosa and company were just too talented as Brazil took the win 68-59 on day two of the FIBA Americas Championship Quarterfinals.

With this win, Brazil’s record moves to 5-0 as the nation becomes the first team to qualify for the 2010 World Championship. Canada’s record now stands at 1-4, with two games remaining in this round.

“We had a real good effort, said Leo Rautins, head coach of the Senior Men’s National Team. “You look at most of the stats and we took care of business the way that we needed to. Unfortunately, Brazil’s experience and some our mental mistakes down the stretch cost us. But that’s the type of effort we need going forward in the final two games. We stuck to a game plan, had a strong effort defensively, and that’s exactly what we need to finish this out.”

Levon Kendall (Vancouver, BC) was Canada’s top scorer and rebounder with 12 points on 6-10 from the field, and seven boards in 20 minutes. Olu Famutimi added 10 points and five rebounds, while starting centre, Joel Anthony contributed 10 points, four rebounds, and was 4-6 from the free throw line.

Barbosa alone scored 31 points by shooting from 11-16 from the field (3-6, 3 pts) and 6-7 from the free throw line in 37 minutes played. Teammate Marcelo Huertas followed with 10 points while fellow NBAer Anderson Varejao added 8 points, along with Guilherme Giovannoni.

“Barbosa’s a great example of that old saying in the NBA, when your best player is your hardest worker you’re going to have a pretty good team,” added Rautins. “He really sets the tone for Brazil, on both ends of the floor with his attitude. He’s an unbelievable player.”

Canada came out ready to play Brazil from the opening tip, as the red and white managed to take the lead midway through the first 11-9. But Barbosa was a force to be reckoned with on offence as he scored 12 of 13 points for Brazil to tie the game with 2:36 left. Canada was hit with a technical foul with 19 seconds left in the first and Barbosa made three of four free throws to give Brazil the 18-15. Kendall finished the quarter with 10.

In the second, Canada continued with tough defense from Joel Anthony and Jesse Young, but Brazil’s Varejao was a force under the net. Within the first five minutes both teams had already collected nine defensive boards a piece. A fast break by Rautins brought Canada to within two (22-24). While Brazil always had an offensive answer, Canada pushed on offensively with great plays by Tyler Kepkay (Vancouver, B.C.), Aaron Doornekamp (Odessa, Ont.) and a dunk by Anthony to give him five in the game, and bring the score to 33-36 at the half.

“We out rebounded them, turned it over less than them and those were the two big things we wanted to do today,” stated Doornekamp after the game. “We wanted to work them and limit their points off our turnovers. We were right there with the best team in the tournament.”

Brazil started the third with a 10-4 run in the first two minutes with support from Giovannoni, who brought his score up to eight. After making two free throws midway through the period English collected his fourth foul and was forced to sit the rest of the period. Doornekamp hit a three with 2:30 left to bring Canada to within three 45-48. Barbosa answered back on offence collecting his 21st point as the team went on a 7-0 run. Canada battled on as Famutimi hit a big three and followed up with a rebound. A basket by team captain Jesse Young brought Canada to within two 50-52 at the end of the third.

The final quarter opened with Varejao and Barbosa hitting baskets, as Brazil went on 7-2 with seven minutes in the game. Canada had several opportunities in the final minutes to close the gap, but Brazil’s defense made it challenging for the red and white to get in the paint. Canada made some mistakes down the stretch while Brazil showed their offensive power as the bench players also helped to secure the win and a spot at the 2010 Worlds.

“Our youth comes in to play and there were lapses,” admitted Rautins. “We had a solid defensive game, but offensively had a couple of breakdowns and a few missed shots and you just can’t afford that against a team like Brazil. Every possession is critical but that’s part of the learning unfortunately of being the youngest team here. We have to not get frustrated, not get down and continue to play through it.”

Canada’s dreams for qualifying are still alive, but the team will need a little help from the home team Puerto Rico. Canada must win its next two matches against Panama tomorrow and Dominican Republic on Friday. As well, Puerto Rico will need to beat the Dominicans tomorrow night in order for Canada to have a chance to advance in the tournament.

Rautins understands that the next couple of days will be an uphill battle for his team. “Panama’s team is athletic, has experience with some individual players that can light it up and change the game. The Dominican Republic is very, very talented across the board. With bigs like Charlie Villenueva, Al Horford and Fransisco Garcia shooting the three, they’re a talented team. We have to be very disciplined especially on the defensive end.”

Both Team Canada games will be broadcast on television starting with the Panama match tomorrow at 1:30 p.m. ET live on The Score and replayed at 4 p.m. and 10 p.m. on RNBA TV. On Friday Canada’s game against the Dominican Republic (tip off 6:30 p.m. ET) will be replayed at 10 p.m. on both The Score and Raptors NBA TV. Fans can also catch the games live on

When asked about the importance of the upcoming games Doornekamp said, “We are not looking past Panama but we have to win both games. We think we have a legitimate shot. If we bring the same effort, I don’t see why we are not in or winning those games.”

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