Image courtesy of FIBA Americas
The Senior Men’s National Team (SMNT) opened the second round of the FIBA Americas Championship for Men with a solid shooting display in an 89-67 win over Mexico. As per the tournament’s system of competition, Team Canada’s record now stands at 3-1, which does not include a first round victory over Brazil because they failed to advance to the second round.
The two sides came out well to begin the match. The back-and-forth opening 10 minutes saw several ties and lead-changes as the teams exchanged scoring opportunities and defensive stops. The Canadians came out of the first holding a 21-18 advantage and the game remained close for the start of the second. With five minutes left in the half, Canada put together an 8-0 run to break open the game and lead 40-31 at halftime.
A resilient Mexican side bounced back with an 8-0 push to begin the third quarter. The tight period featured scoring stretches from both ends of the court as Team Mexico remained dangerous. Burlington, Ontario’s Brady Heslip played a key role in the Canadian response to Mexico’s resurgence. The sharpshooter potted three straight three-point baskets to hold the opposition at bay and keep Canada ahead 60-58 through three frames.
The fourth saw a determined Canadian squad come together to close-out the contest. Combining a stalwart defence with efficient scoring, the SMNT began the quarter with a 13-2 stretch. Team Canada would go on to outscore Mexico 29-9 in the final 10 minutes of the match to secure the victory in what had been a very close affair.
Heslip’s team-high 21 points included five made-baskets from beyond the arc. Syracuse, N.Y. native Andrew Rautins added 19 points, while Cory Joseph of Pickering, Ontario contributed another strong all-around performance with 17 points, eight rebounds and six assists. Canada’s productive bench outscored Mexico’s secondary unit 33-2. The Canadians tallied 16 baskets from three-point range while Mexico managed five. The game’s statistics can be viewed here.
Following the match, head coach Jay Triano commented, “We knew going in that it would be tough; Mexico had a strong first phase. It was a tight game for the first 3 quarters, but our defence wore them down. Defence is a team game and ours came through today.” When asked about tomorrow’s match-up, Triano added, “We're excited to play the host country – the atmosphere will be amazing. I told the players this will be one of those unforgettable experiences. But above all, we must keep our focus on the task at hand.”
The SMNT is scheduled to face host-nation Venezuela at 5:30 p.m. (ET) on Friday. The home-side owned a 1-2 record entering the second round, minus a victory earned against Paraguay who did not advance. The four semifinalists from this tournament will earn berths to the 2014 FIBA World Cup.