The Cadet Men’s National Team (CMNT) put together a big second-half performance to defeat Puerto Rico by a score of 62-50 to capture the bronze medal at the FIBA Americas U16 Championship for Men.
The game began with both sides trading chances and making tight defensive plays. Each side took turns holding the advantage, but Canada left the first 10 minutes of the game sporting a slim 12-11 lead. The relatively low-scoring affair continued as both sides buckled-down in their own ends. Team Canada held onto their slight lead for the majority of the quarter, but a late push allowed Puerto Rico to outscore Canada 14-9 in the frame and go ahead 25-21 heading into halftime.
Canada spent the first five minutes of the third quarter trying to mount a comeback against a tough Puerto Rican defence. Hamilton, Ont. native Nolan Narain entered the game and made an immediate impact. He used his size and skill to lead Canada on a run, making two consecutive baskets and then finishing a three-point play to provide his side with a seven-point lead. Once again, Puerto Rico responded; this time, with a furious 8-0 run to close-out the frame and build a 39-38 lead.
It looked like the game would come down to the wire. The fourth began with both sides playing very evenly. A turnover was met with a steal; a basket at one end led to a difficult lay-up at the other. With just over six minutes to play, head coach Dave DeAveiro brought his troops in. The coach’s words seemed to hit home as Toronto, Ontario’s Koby McEwen connected on a three-pointer on the ensuing play after the timeout. The CMNT showed heart and determination the rest of the way in outscored the opposition 20-5 in the game’s last six minutes to finish the tournament in third place.
For the fourth time in the competition, Team Canada was led by Kitchener, Ontario’s Jamal Murray, who finished the afternoon with 15 points, including a perfect 9-for-9 performance from the free-throw line, to go along with three rebounds, three assists and four steals. McEwen and Narain also posted double-digits in scoring with 12 and 10 points, respectively. Eddie Ekiyor collected 11 rebounds on the day while Justin Jackson came away with eight. Complete game statistics available here.
The Cadet Men’s National Team will now set its sights upon the 2014 U17 FIBA World Championship for Men. Canada had already clinched a berth in next year’s premiere under-17 basketball event after completing the qualifying round with a perfect 3-0 record. The team and staff will return home next week with a wealth of international experience, Canada across their chests and a bronze medal around their necks.