LÉON, Mexico (July 9, 2023) - Canada's Senior Women’s National Team captured bronze at the 2023 FIBA Women’s AmeriCup in Mexico on Sunday after defeating Puerto Rico 80-73 in the third-place game.
“I don’t want to talk about the game, I just want to talk about them,” Team Canada head coach Víctor Lapeña said to open his press conference as he brought the entire team with him. “This is one of the most impressive teams I've coached in my life. Everyday they give me a special energy. Now after this AmeriCup I’m a better coach, I’m a better person. So guys, thank you very much. Enjoy the moment because you deserve it.”
The Canadians were led by a dominant performance from Kayla Alexander who finished with 13 points and 19 rebounds as her work on the offensive glass helped Canada weather a poor-shooting first half before pulling away after halftime.
“I just want to say how proud I am of this team as well,” Alexander said. “I feel like everybody who is here is dedicated to this team. They gave their all today, all tournament long. We cheered each other from the bench, from the floor. Everybody gave their energy. I'm really proud of this team and what we have accomplished this year.”
After falling 67-63 to the United States in the semifinals on Saturday, Canada bounced back and closed the AmeriCup with a win.
Nirra Fields had a team-high 19 points while Shay Colley added 15 and Sami Hill and Yvonne Ejim scored eight points apiece. Aaliyah Edwards added nine rebounds as Canada outrebounded Puerto Rico 52-34 in the game, including 25-9 on the offensive glass where Alexander grabbed 10 of her 19 boards.
Puerto Rico was led by a game-high 27-point performance from Arella Guirantes and 17 points from Mya Hollingshed in the loss.
“It was definitely a team job to guard her,” Hill said of Guirantes. “She’s an amazing player and an extremely good scorer so it takes a lot of work. [Players] one through 12 guarded her today, whether it was the person on her with the ball or the people from the bench talking, or the coaches telling us how to do it.”
With a medal on the line, both teams came out ready to go and the first quarter went back and forth until back-to-back three-pointers from Hill moved Canada in front by seven with under a minute remaining. Strong defence from Kayla Alexander forced a miss inside for Puerto Rico and Canada held a 22-17 lead after the opening 10 minutes.
After misses from both teams to start the second quarter, Hollingshed hit a three to get Puerto Rico within four. A pair of free throws from Syla Swords kept the lead at four until a bucket inside and then a second three from Hollingshed to move Puerto Rico in front by a point, 25-24 midway through the second quarter.
A steal from Ejim led to free throws for Emily Potter. She made both free throws to put Canada in front by two with 3:30 remaining in the quarter. After an offensive rebound from Ejim, a jumper from Hill beat the buzzer to give Canada a one-point lead, 38-37 at the half.
After shooting just 27 percent in the first half, shots started to fall for Canada in the second.
Jacqueline Benitez and Shay Colley traded three-pointers to open the third quarter. A jumper from Hollingshed moved Puerto Rico in front until another three from Canada, this time from Fields.
A reverse layup from Ejim made it a four-point lead for Canada, until Guirantes hit a three of her own. After Alexander missed inside, she grabbed her own offensive rebound and found Fields who scored while being fouled. Fields made the free throw to complete the three-point play and make it 49-45 Canada. A second three for Colley in the quarter extended Canada’s advantage to seven as Puerto Rico called timeout with 6:36 remaining in the third.
A jumper from Ejim extended Canada’s advantage to nine. After a block from Colley, Edwards scored inside, but Hollingshed sank another jumper to keep Canada’s advantage to seven with under a minute remaining in the quarter.
Canada’s 26 points in the third was their highest-scoring quarter in the game as they built a six-point lead to take into the final frame.
The Canadians were 18-for-21 from the line, making the most of their extra opportunities. They held a 27-9 advantage in second chance points, as well as a 13-4 edge in fastbreak points.
Canada held onto its lead throughout the fourth, though Puerto Rico continued to push.
A pair of free throws from Cassandre Prosper kept Canada’s advantage at eight points with seven minutes remaining. A steal from Hill led to a Prosper assist on a bucket from Alexander to make it a 10-point game with 5:58 remaining. Canada continued to show the great ball movement that fuelled their strong second half in the fourth quarter. The team found Fields for another open jumper from the free-throw line and she connected.
A three-pointer from Brianna Jones trimmed Canada’s lead to seven with 2:18 remaining. Jones scored inside to cut the lead to five points with two minutes remaining, but Puerto Rico would not get any closer as an offensive rebound and bucket from Alexander extended the lead back to seven. After Alexander completed the three-point play with a free throw, Canada led by eight. Colley had her own three-point play with 54 seconds remaining, all but sealing the victory for the Canadians.
After the game, Colley was quick to thank organizers of the event.
“We’re very thankful for all of you who put on this tournament,” she said. “The workers behind the scenes, the scoreboard, the refs, everyone. The city of León, thank you. We had fans in the stands from León and we really appreciate it and we’re really grateful for the support. Everyone give a clap for them.”
Lapeña also wanted to extend his appreciation to all of his staff, as well as Denise Dignard, the General Manager and Executive Vice-President of Canada Basketball Women’s High Performance.
“I want to say thank you very much to my staff,” Lapeña said. “They were amazing from the first day and I would like to say, especially, thank you very much to my GM Denise Dignard because every day she is thinking of the next step to help us. Thank you Denise, you are top. Top person, top GM.”