VICTORIA, British Columbia (July 4, 2021) -- The Canadian Senior Men’s National Team dropped a 103-101 heartbreaker in overtime to the Czech Republic in the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament semifinals in Victoria on Saturday. The loss extinguishes Canada’s hope at earning a spot in the Tokyo Olympics and the team will now shift its focus to the FIBA AmeriCup 2022 as well as the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 in the lead up to the 2024 Paris Olympics.
“First of all congratulations to Czech, they really, really played great,” head coach Nick Nurse said. “We knew that they were capable of being that good. That team has been together and won a lot of games in these competitions. I was extremely proud of our guys. We hung in there, battled and fought, and gave ourselves a chance. Sometimes when it’s a knockout tournament, you can just look at the last two plays, they made a bank shot and ours went in and out. That’s the deciding factor.”
Canada was led by a 23-point performance from RJ Barrett and 22 points from Andrew Wiggins in the loss. Wiggins hit a three-pointer with 11 seconds remaining to force overtime after Canada went on a 12-0 run in the final 57 seconds of regulation to extend the game.
As Nurse mentioned, Tomas Satoransky scored the final basket of the game in overtime, breaking a 101-all tie, as he banked in a jumper with Luguentz Dort draped over him to give the Czech Republic a 103-101 lead with 1.8 seconds remaining. Though Canada got an open look for Trey Lyles on their final possession, Lyles’ shot was halfway down before coming back out, to give the Czech Republic the win to advance to the tournament Finals on Sunday.
“Give them credit,” Andrew Nicholson said. “They played well. They were hitting tough shots. Like Coach said, the bank shot at the end, ours went in and out. That's just sometimes how the ballgame goes. It was a good team that we played against. They have good chemistry and we just wish them luck.”
Blake Schilb scored a game-high 31 points to lead the Czech Republic the win, including the three in overtime that gave the Czech Republic back the lead. Schilb finished the game shooting 7-for-12 from beyond the arc. Three-point shooting was huge in the game, as the Canadians struggled from deep for much of the second half, finishing the game just 9-for-37 from deep, compared to Czech Republic’s 13-for-28 from three.
Canada’s first lead came in overtime on a three from Alexander-Walker, who finished with 21 points in the game. Though the Canadians would go ahead by five in the extra session, they couldn’t get the stops they needed down the stretch to prevent the Czech Republic comeback.
Though Canada kept it close, the Czech Republic led throughout regulation, holding a two-point lead after the opening quarter, and then an eight-point advantage at the halftime break. The Czech Republic led by seven to open the fourth, and by 10 points with under a minute remaining before a flurry of three-pointers and steals from Canada forced the extra session.
“You can look at a lot of things,” Nurse said. “I thought we adjusted well in the second half. We had a lot of really hood open looks but it just didn't bounce our way tonight and that happens.”
While the team did not accomplish its goal to earn a spot at the Tokyo Olympics, the roster showed flashes of chemistry that was built in limited time during training camp leading into the tournament.
“I’m extremely proud of the players that committed, and the effort they gave,” Nurse said. “It was a tremendous learning experience for our organization and our program.”
Though the mood in the locker room was understandably down after the loss, Nicholson shared that team captain Cory Joseph gave a speech to the team, reminding them that although this summer’s run is finished, the future for the program is bright.
“We just need to stay together” Nicholson said. “Sometimes this is how the ballgame goes. We’re going to stay positive and look forward to our next opportunity as a basketball team.”