RIGA, Latvia (July 11, 2021) -- Canada's U19 Men's National Team defeated Serbia 101-92 to take a third-place finish at the FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup 2021. The Canadians won the bronze medal behind a 31-point performance from Bennedict Mathurin, including 14 points in a decisive fourth quarter.
Ryan Nembhard recorded a 21-point, 10-assist double-double for the Canadians, while Caleb Houstan added 17 points and Zach Edey finished with 12 points, 12 rebounds and five blocked shots as Canada came out on top in a roller coaster game against Serbia.
Mihailo Musikic led Serbia with a team-high 25 points, while Mihailo Petrovic and Lazar Stefanovic added 16 points apiece in the loss.
"I feel pretty good,” Mathurin said. “It’s the second medal in the history of Canada Basketball. It’s not what we wanted but we got third place. Third place is better than fourth place. So, we’ll take it."
Canada earned its bronze medal with a show of perseverance in Sunday’s game. Though the Canadians led early, the win was a result of grit and determination under pressure after Serbia punched back from an early deficit.
“This team has demonstrated their character and competitiveness over and over again since we met,” Team Canada head coach Paul Weir said. “Today they answered that call one more time to help us achieve a significant milestone. While not the one we truly wanted, one that in time we will all come to appreciate more and more; that we put ourselves in the history books. I am so thankful to have been a part of such a great group of athletes and staff. Go Canada!”
After leading by 11, 33-22 following the opening 10 minutes of the game, Canada went cold midway through the second quarter. With Canada ahead by 13 at the 5:09 mark of the second quarter, Serbia reeled off a 20-0 run to move in front. A three-pointer from Nembhard in the final seconds of the half ended a five-minute scoring drought for the Canadians who went into the half trailing by four, 54-50.
Serbia opened the third on a 7-0 run to go ahead by double figures before Nembhard got Canada on the board in the second half with a floater to make it a 61-52 lead for Serbia with 8:12 remaining in the quarter. With Nembhard orchestrating the offence for Canada, a layup from Edey followed by a dunk from Olivier-Maxence Prosper brought Canada within five as Serbia called a timeout with 4:38 remaining in the quarter. Canada continued to push, finding ways to score in transition as well as to be aggressive and attack on offence, forcing turnovers and converting to close the quarter strong. The two teams went into the fourth with things tied up at 74 points apiece.
Canada struck first in the fourth with a layup from Nembhard. After roller-coaster second and third quarters, the Canadians continued to add to their lead, slowly but surely in the final frame. A layup from Mathurin in transition off of a steal from Elijah Fisher made it an eight-point lead for Canada with 5:53 remaining. After three free throws from Mathurin, a jumper from Houstan and then another three-point play from Mathurin, Canada was back up by double figures. Soon after, a three from Nembhard extended Canada’s advantage to 97-84 with 2:43 remaining. Serbia wouldn’t get closer than eight the rest of the way.
“Coming out after halftime we really dug in, we stuck together, and we played with great effort on both ends of the floor,” Prosper said. “At the end we pulled away and I'm super proud of this group of guys [and] the journey we’ve been on the last couple of weeks. I love those guys.”
Canada shot 55 percent in the win, holding Serbia to 48 percent shooting. The Canadians were victorious despite a huge disparity in three-point field goals as Serbia finished 12-for-29 from three (41 percent), compared to Canada, who connected on just 3-of-18 (17 percent) attempts from long range. After struggling at the line for much of the tournament, Canada made 20-of-24 free throws on Sunday with Mathurin and Houstan combining to shoot 15-for-17 on free throws.
This is Canada’s second time earning a medal in this tournament, following 2017’s gold medal finish in a 79-60 win against Italy in the Final.