Saturday, 5 September 2009

A Huge win in a huge spot

For weeks now, Canada Basketball officials had been implying to whoever would listen that the current group National team players was the tightest and most together group of this era. Nothing epitomized this togetherness more than the post-game celebration at mid court after yesterday's dramatic 80-76 qualification-clinching victory over Dominican Republic in which all 12 players exuberantly bounced around in a close scrum. It certainly was a huge moment for this much-maligned group which recovered from losing 4 consecutive tournament games to get it done in the final two, coming back from an early-third-quarter eight point deficit to close out a game that during this recent era they usually lost by making big shots and getting huge stops and rebounds when needed down the stretch.

As most know by now, Canada now advances to our first major global tournament since 2002 World Championship in Indianapolis. Although Canada did have future NBA Hall-of-Famer Steve Nash leading the way during our runs in the late 90's through earlier this decade, those teams were very much together from one through twelve and the results showed. In the 2009 FIBA Americas tournament, the Canadian team also had that same cohension and commitment to winning as the first objective, which hasn't always been the case in the past 5 or so summers.

A Canada Basketball veteran from downtown Toronto Eastern Commerce high school and an aggressive mentally-tough scrapper from Odessa, Ontario and Carleton University Ravens were the two key contributors to arguably the biggest win for this program since the 2000 Olympics. 6'1" Jermaine Anderson, who has patiently remained loyal to the program for many years since his high school days, made the Dominicans pay for continually going under ball screens by knocking down five 3's including a pair of quick bombs midway through the third when the game appeared to be slipping away from Canada. 6'7" Aaron Doornekamp, one of two CIS born-and-bred players on the Canadian roster, admittedly had had an uneven tournament, highlighted by a series of turnovers against Argentina, but showed his ability to bounce back from adversity with a sterling defensive effort down the stretch against 6'10" Charlie Villanueva. Offensively, Doornekamp dropped probably the biggest shot of the tournament for Canada, a long 3 from the left baseline which gave Canada a four-point lead with a minute and a half remaining and brought the first bit of legitimacy to the thought of Canada being able to successfully close out the game with a win. Aaron also hit another three with just under 5 minutes to play that gave Canada their largest lead at six points.

There were other heroes including 6'9" Joel Anthony, who dropped a couple of big free throws and did a nice job defending 6'10" Al Horford in a classic battle of a pair of emerging NBA post players. 6'9" Levon Kendall had several baskets during Canada's run that closed that early third quarter gap and 6'5" Carl English, who although in the middle parts of the game authored a series of poor shots and questionable decisions leading to turnovers, set a positive tone early for Canada with a pair of threes and then made some big plays for Canada when it counted including driving the lane under control and kicking out to Doornekamp to set up his dramatic shot with 1 1/2 minutes remaining. 6'9" captain Jesse Young was his normal workman-like self with some put backs and post moves while 6'6" Jermaine Bucknor, who started the first two games of the tournament before seeing his minutes chopped dramatically, rebounded by knocking down a pair of threes including a long bomb in the second quarter immediately after DR took their largest lead of the half at 8 points.

Canada, which finishes fourth in the quarter-final round and as a result has two more games to play in the tournament, now advances to the championship semi-final tonight against Brazil at 6:30 PM ET (the SCORE will show the game on tape delay at 11 PM. The Brazilians handed Canada their last loss of the tournament, pulling away late but that game appears to have been the confidence builder Canada needed to know that they can play with these teams. Brazil finishes first in the quarter-final round despite an 86-82 loss to host Puerto Rico last night, their first loss of the tournament. Puerto Rico meets Argentina in the other semi-final with the championship game and third place game slated for Sunday on the tournament's final day. All four teams have already qualified for the 2010 FIBA World Basketball championship tournament in Turkey.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

While I thoroughly enjoyed Canada's big win last night it has to be said that the format used for this tournament is just plain STUPID!
Why N and S American teams are lumped together in one huge tournament is beyond me.
All other continents compete in their own tournament...why are the Americas treated as one?
Even Oceania, for God's sake, has its own tournament.
Break the qualifying process into two tournaments one for N America and one for South, with about six teams each.
Much more sensible, and would require far fewer games to complete.
Top two teams from each qualify for Worlds.
In all likelihood if a two tournament system had been used, you'd see the same four teams qualifying anyway, only without the marathon schedule every team was subjected to.