DEBRECEN, HUNGARY (July 13, 2022) - The Canadian U17 Women’s National Team dominated in a 70-36 victory against New Zealand on Wednesday to advance to the quarterfinals at the FIBA U17 Women’s Basketball World Cup in Hungary.
“We’re really excited to have qualified for the quarterfinals,” Team Canada head coach Cheryl Jean-Paul said. “This was the first of our goals and it was exciting that we were able to meet that today.”
Canada was led by a 17-point performance from Taija Sta Marie who made all five of her three-pointers in the first half as Canada built an 18-point halftime lead.
“Our team is feeling very confident and like we’re moving in the right direction going into the playoffs,” Sta Marie said. “I’m super proud of everyone. Everyone stepped up today and did what they had to do and it ended off with a great team win for us. I’m super excited for our team. We’re all feeling really connected and motivated and we’re determined. We’re ready to move on to the next game and finish what we started here at the world cup.
Cassandre Prosper had eight points, nine rebounds, two assists, four steals and three blocked shots for Canada, as four Canadians recorded at least four steals in the game.
Every player on Canada’s roster logged time, and 11 players scored in the victory. While both teams shot just 30 percent from the floor, Canada attempted 86 shots to just 46 field goal attempts for New Zealand as the Canadians forced New Zealand into 36 turnovers to just 11 miscues for Canada.
After the teams traded baskets to start, Canada went on an 11-0 run, keyed by a trio of three-pointers from Taija Sta Maria to jump ahead. When New Zealand’s Maia Jones went down with a medical emergency, play was suspended temporarily with 2:59 remaining in the quarter.
“We do wish the best for the New Zealand athlete that was injured,” Jean-Paul said. “You never want to see that happen during a basketball game.”
Once play resumed, and both teams had warmed up, Lilly Taulelei hit a jumper for New Zealand, but Jada Bediako responded with a hook shot of her own to put Canada ahead 15-4 after the opening 10 minutes.
It was a rough start for New Zealand who attempted just eight field goals in the opening quarter to 22 attempts for Canada.
Canada won all four quarters against New Zealand, taking the second quarter 18-11 as back-to-back three-pointers from Sta Marie, her fourth and fifth in the game, extended Canada’s lead to 31-13 with 58 seconds remaining in the quarter. After the teams traded baskets to close the quarter, Canada led 33-15 at the halftime break.
“I thought Taija had a great game,” Jean-Paul said. “She had others that facilitated well for her to be able to knock down some big shots for us in the early part of the game. Every game that we play where we have someone else to step up is only going to serve us as we get into the next round of games.”
Canada had 27 steals in the game, compared to just three for New Zealand. They also had a 43-9 edge in points scored off turnovers and held a 24-12 advantage on the offensive glass.
Canada scored the first six points of the second half, extending the lead to 39-15, before Ritorya Tamilo was fouled, earning a trip to the line. Tamilo made both free throws to get New Zealand on the board in the second half.
A pair of free throws from Bediako extended Canada’s lead back to 22 points with 5:52 remaining in the third. After Prosper got the offensive rebound and put back off of her own missed shot, she made it a 24-point lead for Canada. Sta Maria moved inside the arc to hit a floater with 2:11 remaining in the third, and then after a steal from Ajok Deng Obed Madol, Sta Maria assisted on a three-point play for Marina Radocaj. Canada went into the fourth leading 52-25.
The final frame was a formality as Karereatua Williams hit a three-pointer for New Zealand to open fourth-quarter scoring, but Canada scored the next nine points to extend their lead to 33 points. After that initial three-pointer to open the quarter, New Zealand went scoreless for more than four minutes until a layup from Tannika Leger-Walker with 4:23 remaining. After Syla Swords drilled a stepback three-pointer, Canada led 66-32, the largest lead of the game.
Canada will face hosts Hungary on Friday, July 15 in the quarterfinals, at 11:30am ET.