Update: Canada to meet USA in Pan Am women’s basketball final
With perfect Toronto 2015 Pan American Games winning records through group stage and semifinals, it’ll be Canada versus United States in the women’s basketball final.
Canada beat Brazil 91-63 in their semifinal with Nirra Fields scoring 15 points. Lizanne Murphy, Kim Gaucher and Michelle Plouffe also hit double digits on the scoresheet to spread the wealth and give Canadians plenty of offensive confidence ahead of the powerful Americans.
USA was involved in a much closer game, beating Cuba by a single point 65-64 in the other semifinal. Canada closed out its group stage by bettering Cuba 71-68 (more in ‘preliminary round’ below) in a tournament that has shown the Americas to have new depth in women’s basketball beyond the two Pan Am finalists and world number seven Brazil.
USA is the top ranked basketball nation on the planet. They don’t seem very fussed that the sport was developed by a Canadian. Basketball is a USA-dominated game and to be considered the best, every ambitious nation has to go through the United States.
And overcoming USA is what Canada must do if it is to win its first-ever women’s Pan Am basketball crown on Monday night at Ryerson Athletic Centre (8:45 p.m. ET).
A suspenseful finish to the preliminary stage saw Canada triumph 71-68 over Cuba to win Group B. Up 69-66 late in the fourth quarter, a three-point foul draw by Leydis Oquendo sent the Cuban player to the free throw line. She hit two of three, and Canada rolled the rebound on the missed third shot out of its zone, transitioning to a Tamara Tatham layup to lead by what would be the final score with just under six seconds remaining.
Natalie Achonwa was Team Canada’s stats leader against Cua with 15 points and seven rebounds. Tatham and Miah-Marie Langlois each added four assists.
Winning Group B avoids the United States, at least for another round should Canada be able to get by Brazil, the seventh ranked team in the world. FIBA – the sport’s governing body, has Canada at no. 10.
Earlier in the women’s tourney, Canada beat Venezuela 101-38 and Argentina 73-58 in its first two outings. Lizanne Murphy’s 15 points led Canada in the first game, while Miranda Ayim and Tatham each dropped 12 against the Argentines to help Canada to a 2-0 start. Cuba is also 2-0, having beaten the same opponents.
Canada – which finished fifth at the FIBA World Championship for Women in 2014 – will later this summer try to secure an Olympic spot for Rio 2016 in a FIBA Americas tournament being held in Edmonton.