MacKinnon: Canada shocks home crowd with lopsided win over Cuba

 

Both teams still advance to Saturday’s semifinals

 
 
 
 
Kia Nurse of Canada is fouled by Arlety Povea Chacon of Cuba during a FIBA Americas Women’s Championship basketball game at the Saville Community Sports Centre on Aug. 13, 2015.
 
 

Kia Nurse of Canada is fouled by Arlety Povea Chacon of Cuba during a FIBA Americas Women’s Championship basketball game at the Saville Community Sports Centre on Aug. 13, 2015.

Photograph by: Greg Southam, Edmonton Journal

EDMONTON - Canadian fans got the spectacle they came and packed the gym to see, but few came expecting a mismatch.

That’s what they got — with no complaints — as Canada dominated Cuba, start to finish basically, winning 92-43 to complete round-robin play with a perfect 4-0 won-lost record.

Capacity at the Saville Community Sports Centre is 2,600, but this was a standing-room-only crowd that might have exceeded the limit. They filled the gym with hometown sound, too, including a rousing standing ovation to celebrate Team Canada as the seconds ticked off the clock with that unexpected lopsided score lighting up the scoreboard.

Canada, which squeaked past Cuba 71-68 in round-robin play at the Pan American Games tournament, had its stingy defence in gear from the outset. Once its multi-faceted offence got rolling, it was just a question of how big the margin of victory was going to be.

Canada led 21-13 at the end of the first quarter, 42-19 at halftime and 63-30 after the third quarter.

Canada will play Brazil in one semifinal at 6 p.m. Saturday. Argentina upset Brazil 73-69 to finish first in Group B. The Argentines, who were singing and dancing on the court after their down-to-the-wire victory, play Cuba in the other semifinal at 3:30 p.m.

Brazil, resting its veteran players in the first half, fell behind by more than 20 points, but stormed back to take a second-half lead with their regulars, only to lose to their South American neighbour down the strech.

Head coach Lisa Thomaidis cautioned observers not to be fooled by Canada’s margin of victory over Cuba, just shy of 50 points.

“We can’t kid ourselves,” Thomaidis said. “This was not Cuba’s best performance and not indicative of how strong their team really is.”

Cuba was playing its fourth game in as many nights and, evidently, the players did not have their legs. Canada had Wednesday off and a bench 12 players deep, a factor in their previous three victories, was on display Thursday night in a major way.

“We’re all very aware of how these tournaments work,” Thomaidis said. “It doesn’t matter if you win or lose by two or 25, you move on and you have to get ready for your next opponent.

“A lot of times, you need to look ahead when things aren’t going your way ­— or they are — and I think Cuba is very adept at that. They know how to play that game.”

The victory may have come at a significant cost for Canada. Before the game was two minutes old, veteran guard Shona Thorburn seemed to roll her left ankle when she landed on a Cuban player’s foot after she drove the basket for a layup that made the score 13-7.

Thorburn, 33, was in obvious agony as she writhed on the hardwood beside the basket. She had to be supported by two people as she was helped first to a chair in an exit, then to the Canadian locker room. She did not return and may well be done for the tournament.

“We don’t know,” Thomaidis said. “It was a huge loss for us tonight when she went down, and super unfortunate. It took the wind out of our sails from an emotional standpoint. We’ll wait and see how she is.”

All 12 Canadian players have played and all have scored in all but one of four round-robin games, so Thorburn will be missed if she is unable to play in the 6 p.m. semifinal on Saturday and Sunday’s 6 p.m. final, should Canada advance.

Forward Miranda Ayim got things started for Canada in both halves. She scored Canada’s first six points to start the game and buried the host team’s first two baskets in the second half, as Canada built a 51-20 lead early in the third quarter.

Kia Nurse led all Canadian scorers with 14 points. Ayim and Natalie Achonwa both had 12 while Tamara Tatham and Kim Gaucher each contributed 11.

Cuba had two players hit double figures — Anisleidy Galindo scored 12 points and added six rebounds while Oyanaisy Gelis scored 11 points.

Canada maintained its intensity throughout, not playing the score, but delivering a comprensive drubbing of the Cuba, expanding its lead from 30 to 40 and almost 50 in the end.

The team has resisted the temptation all tournament to take its foot off the gas when it had a big lead. Why?

“Because it’s so much fun,” said Gaucher. “We go through two-a-days (practices) all summer long. We’ve been dreaming of the chance to play in our home country. I mean, everybody is just champing at the bit to get out on the court and show what we’re capable of.”

Mission accomplished. Still, this victory won’t mean much unless Canada qualifies for Sunday’s final and wins it, thereby earning the one berth to the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on offer at this tournament. If Canada doesn’t get the berth, it will participate in a last-chance Olympic qualifying tournament next June.

jmackinnon@edmontonjournal.com

Twitter.com/rjmackinnon

Check out my blog at edmontonjournal.com/Sweatsox

 
 
 
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Kia Nurse of Canada is fouled by Arlety Povea Chacon of Cuba during a FIBA Americas Women’s Championship basketball game at the Saville Community Sports Centre on Aug. 13, 2015.
 

Kia Nurse of Canada is fouled by Arlety Povea Chacon of Cuba during a FIBA Americas Women’s Championship basketball game at the Saville Community Sports Centre on Aug. 13, 2015.

Photograph by: Greg Southam, Edmonton Journal

 
Kia Nurse of Canada is fouled by Arlety Povea Chacon of Cuba during a FIBA Americas Women’s Championship basketball game at the Saville Community Sports Centre on Aug. 13, 2015.
Kia Nurse of Canada drives the lane against Arlety Povea Chacon of Cuba during Thursday’s FIBA Americas Women’s Championship basketball game at the Saville Community Sports Centre.
Natalie Achonwa of Canada is fouled by Clenia Noblet of Cuba during Thursday’s FIBA Americas Women’s Championship basketball game at the Saville Community Sports Centre.
Kia Nurse of Canada is fouled by Cuba’s Leidys Oquendo Valdes during Thursday’s FIBA Americas Women’s Championship basketball game at the Saville Community Sports Centre.
Miah-Marie Langlois of Canada is fouled by Leidys Oquendo Valdes of Cuba during Thursday’s FIBA Americas Women’s Championship basketball game at the Saville Community Sports Centre.
Natalie Achonwa of Canada is fouled by Clenia Noblet of Cuba during Thursday’s FIBA Americas Women’s Championship basketball game at the Saville Community Sports Centre.
Miah-Marie Langlois of Canada takes it to the hoop against Cuba during Thursday’s FIBA Americas Women’s Championship basketball game at the Saville Community Sports Centre.
Canada guard Kia Nurse is fouled by Arlenys Romero Moninelo of Cuba during Thursday’s FIBA Americas Women’s Championship basketball game at the Saville Community Sports Centre.
Tamara Tatham of Canada scores during during Thursday’s FIBA Americas Women’s Championship basketball game with Cuba at the Saville Community Sports Centre.
Miah-Marie Langlois of Canada drives the lane against Cuba during Thursday’s FIBA Americas Women’s Championship basketball game at the Saville Community Sports Centre.
Kia Nurse of Canada is tripped up by Clenia Noblet (12) of Cuba as teammate Anisleidy Galindo watches during Thursday’s FIBA Americas Women’s Championship basketball game at the Saville Community Sports Centre.
Natalie Achonwa of Canada takes it to the hoop against Clenia Noblet of Cuba during Thursday’s FIBA Americas Women’s Championship basketball game at the Saville Community Sports Centre.
Canadian fans cheer on their team during Thursday’s FIBA Americas Women’s Championship basketball game with Cuba at the Saville Community Sports Centre.
Kia Nurse of Canada is fouled by Arlety Povea Chacon of Cuba during a FIBA Americas Women’s Championship basketball game at the Saville Community Sports Centre on Aug. 13, 2015.
Tamara Tatham of Canada is fouled by Zuleira Aties of Cuba during Thursday’s FIBA Americas Women’s Championship basketball game at the Saville Community Sports Centre.
 
 
 
 
 
 
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