RECIFE, Brazil (Sept. 8, 2022) - The Canadian Senior Men’s National Team defeated Mexico 82-77 on Thursday to advance to the FIBA AmeriCup 2022 Semifinals in Brazil.
Canada was led by a 16-point, seven-assist performance from Dalano Banton, 14 points from Jahovn Henry-Blair, 11 points from Lloyd Pandi and 10 points from Trae Bell-Haynes.
“The advantage of having Dalano, this guy can play 1-through 4, being 6-foot-9, kinda helps with his rebounding ability as well,” Team Canada head coach Nathaniel Mitchell said. “I thought Lloyd Pandi, he’s 6-foot-4, 6-foot-5, he rebounds the ball, he makes tough plays, he grits it out. It really helps. Our guards are tough.”
Banton has relished the opportunity to suit up for Canada.
“For me just to be able to represent my country for the first time, I've always wanted to do that,” Banton said. “Going in, being able to get a lot of reps, a lot of game reps… Playing against high-level competition is great, any time you can. Being able to push yourself, play with guys who trust me, who expect me to try to lead, it’s a different role here and I’m accepting it and I’m playing it and hopefully we get to win our next two games.”
Daniel Amigo had 20 points and Gabriel Giron added 19 points for Mexico in the loss.
The Canadians closed out the victory at the free-throw line as Mexico ran out of time to try to complete a comeback in a game that had 13 lead changes. Canada led by two points after three quarters, but Mexico opened the fourth quarter on a 5-0 run to take a three-point lead. Thomas Kennedy made a floater to snap their run. Banton then connected on a pair of free throws before assisting Kadre Gray on a layup to put Canada back in front by three with 7:37 remaining.
“He made the right plays,” Mitchell said of Banton. “He had seven assists tonight.”
Banton then made a technical free throw and Canada led 61-57 with 7:09 remaining. A three-pointer from Giron brought Mexico back within a point until Banton scored on a layup to keep Canada ahead by three. Bell-Haynes made it a five-point game when he drove to the rim for a layup, forcing Mexico into a timeout with 4:56 remaining.
After Banton found Pandi in the corner for a three, Canada was ahead 72-63 with 2:40 remaining. The teams traded free throws until Amigo scored inside, cutting Canada’s lead to six points. After a pair of free throws from Bell-Haynes, Canada led by eight with 31 seconds remaining.
A three from Giron brought Mexico within five with 24 seconds remaining, but free throws from Canada kept the game out of reach.
Canada shot 54 percent in the game, while Mexico shot 47 percent. Canada had 11 players log time in the victory and also held a 26-5 edge in points scored by the bench.
“I thought we did a good job in terms of putting pressure on the rim today,” Mitchell said. “In the past I thought we settled for threes in transition and we made a consistent effort at getting to the rim and it really helped our offence. This is probably the most points we’ve scored since we’ve been here and I thought that really helped.”
Canada shot 18-for-27 from the line compared to Mexico who attempted just 14 free throws (10-for-14).
After falling behind by eight with 1:50 remaining in the first quarter, three-pointers from Henry-Blair and Maurice Calloo had Canada within two after the opening 10 minutes.
Canada opened the second quarter on the move, as Trae Bell-Haynes tied the game with a layup and then Banto got a steal and assisted on a layup for Calloo to put Canada in front by two. Pandi was fouled inside and made one of two free throws, Canada held a two-point lead, 30-28, with 1:56 remaining in the half. After an offensive rebound and layup from Yahir Bonilla, the teams went into the half tied at 30 points apiece.
The score stayed tight in the third quarter with the two teams trading baskets and leads. A three-pointer from Giron put Mexico ahead by three with 1:56 remaining. Banton scored on back-to-back possessions for Canada, hitting a pull-up jumper and then finishing an alley-oop dunk off of the Bell-Haynes assist to put Canada back in front by a point.
After a steal from Banton, he drove to the rim and was fouled, making one of two free throws to put Canada ahead by two, 54-52, with 21 seconds remaining in the quarter.
“My teammates continue to push me whether I have three points or 20 points,” Banton said. “Throughout the half, and in the third quarter, they just continued to tell me to turn it on, keep going, keep shooting, keep doing what I have to do in order to get myself going. They continue to look for me, they continue to trust me when I shoot it or when I decide to make a play."
Banton scored 13 of his 16 points in the second half.
“Having that trust from your teammates and your coaches, it allows you to do good things," he said. "Hopefully we continue to keep our momentum going and win this thing.”
Canada will face the winner of the Brazil-Dominican Republic quarterfinal in Saturday’s semifinal, time to be determined.