Canada basketball
Canada Basketball

Canada falls to hosts Puerto Rico at FIBA Women's AmeriCup 2021, will play for bronze Sunday

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (June 18, 2021) - After making it to the FIBA Women’s AmeriCup 2021 semifinals undefeated, the Canadian Senior Women’s National Team fell to host team Puerto Rico 65-61 on Friday.

Though Canada led the tournament in three-point shooting coming into the game, the team finally went cold from the floor, shooting just 36 percent in the loss. The shooting struggles extended to the three-point line as well as the foul line, as Canada made just 2-for-18 three-pointers and 11-of-22 free-throw attempts.

“We certainly had our shooting woes tonight,” head coach Lisa Thomaidis said. “It’s unfortunate. We had a number of people just kind of go cold after a number of great performances throughout the tournament. I thought we had a lot of open looks, certainly from the free throw line, they’re open looks, but we just couldn’t get them to go down tonight, unfortunately.”

Facing the host team meant playing in front of a loud and passionate home crowd for the first time in the tournament. This was the first time Canada had played in front of a crowd in nearly 16 months, but Kayla Alexander, who finished with 11 points and eight rebounds for Canada in the loss, didn’t think it was the crowd that caused their scoring woes, saying that players look forward to playing in front of a crowd.

“That gives you energy,” Alexander said. “It’s exciting to have people back in the stands, whether they’re cheering for you or against you. I don't want to say the crowd affected our game or our performance. I feel like we let a lot of points go at the foul line. And also we have to give credit to Puerto Rico. They played great today. They got it done.”

Puerto Rico came out aggressive from the opening tip and didn’t let up. The game remained close from beginning possession until the final buzzer sounded with 13 lead changes. Though Canada outrebounded Puerto Rico 51-34, including 20-9 on the offensive glass, Puerto Rico made Canada pay for struggles at the line, making 78 percent of their foul attempts in the game.

Jazmon Gwathmey led Puerto Rico with a game-high 17 points, while Canada was led by a 14-point performance from Nirra Fields and a 12-point, 11-rebound double-double from Laeticia Amihere off the bench.

Though the loss was disappointing for a Canadian team that had a 38.4-point average margin of victory entering Friday’s game, the opportunity to play against competition after such a long layoff has been crucial for a Canadian team that is preparing for the Tokyo Olympics later this summer.

“Any time we get a chance to play in a close game against a team that is going to be at the Olympics it’s a tremendous gift for us,” Thomaidis said. “This is exactly what we want. We need close games to evaluate where we are and what we need to continue to improve. So as disappointing as it is [right now], in the long run it’s going to be a very good thing for us.

“Everyone pays a lot more attention after a loss than after a close win,” Thomaidis continued. “We’re going to learn some great lessons from this game tonight.”

Canada has made it a point to push the tempo in this tournament. With six games in seven days under their belt, the game plan remains the same for Canada in Saturday’s bronze-medal game against Brazil: Push the ball, move the ball, find the open player, and take the best shot.

“We’ve been working a lot on playing together as a team, sharing the basketball, working hard to get great shots,” Thomaidis said. “That’s what we have to continue to strive towards and that’s going to be the same goal tomorrow as it was today as it was from the beginning of the tournament. We’ve got to get back together again and perform against a very tough Brazil squad tomorrow and get back to playing Canadian Basketball.”

Canada will face Brazil on Saturday in the bronze medal game at 6:10 PM ET.  Fans in Canada can catch the action live on DAZN.