TOKYO, Japan (August 1, 2021) -- Canada's Senior Women’s National Team dropped a tough 76-66 decision to Spain on Sunday morning. With the loss, Canada finishes the Group Phase 1-2 at the Tokyo 2020 Women’s Basketball Olympic Competition. The team will now wait to see if they advance to the quarterfinals.
The teams placed first and second in each group and the 2 best third-placed teams in the Group Phase qualify for the Final Phase. As a result, there are a variety of scenarios for the remaining games that could determine whether Canada advances.
“Certainly not the outcome we were looking for and now we’ll have to sit back and wait,” head coach Lisa Thomaidis said. “We wanted to take matters into our own hands. We won two of four quarters [today] and unfortunately we just dug ourselves into too big of a hole to get out of.”
Canada was led by a 14-point effort from Kia Nurse, 11 points from Natalie Achonwa and 10 points from Laeticia Amihere in the loss. Astou Ndour led the way for Spain with a 20-point, 11-rebound double-double, while point guard Cristina Ouvina added 15 points and seven assists.
Canada knew Sunday’s game would be tough. Spain, the No. 3 ranked team in the world, were the silver medallists at the Rio Olympics in 2016. Though Canada had stretches of stifling defence that forced Spain into turnovers and allowed them to push the pace offensively, a slow start to the game was ultimately too much to overcome after it was coupled with a rough start to the third quarter.
“Slow start in the first, slow start in the third and that was probably the difference in the game,” Nurse said. “We showed a lot of fight, we showed a lot of heart and unfortunately now we’ve just got to wait.”
Canada shot 38 percent in the game, while giving up 59 percent shooting to Spain. The Canadians didn’t get off to the start they had hoped for as Spain jumped out to an early 9-3 lead to open the game. After Canada trimmed the lead to two, 11-9, with 4:41 remaining in the quarter, Spain closed on a 12-4 run to lead by double-digits, 23-13 after the opening 10 minutes.
“We talked about starting with intensity from the jump,” Amihere said in a post-game interview. “I think we lacked that a little bit. We got that spark at the end, where we were starting to go down. I think we need that for 40 minutes. It’s the Olympics. It’s really hard to start slow and win the game.”
After a better showing in the second quarter with Canada’s defence leading the way, Nurse’s second three-pointer of the game got Canada within six, 40-34, at the half. Canada’s defensive efforts in the first half kept Spain scoreless from beyond the arc, while Canada had connected on 3-of-5 attempts from deep, two coming from Nurse.
Things started to fall apart in the third as Spain opened the quarter on a 9-0 run to take its largest lead of the game. A three from Ouvina capped an 18-4 run for Spain, stretching the lead to 20 points with 4:39 remaining in the quarter. As Canada continued to try to cut into the lead, an offensive flurry from Amihere saw Canada head into the fourth quarter trailing by 13.
“I think we lost some of our defensive intensity to start the third for whatever reason,” Thomaidis said. “You can't let Spain get comfortable and they got comfortable a little bit. We tried to stop the bleeding right away, we had some good looks, but they just didn't go down. Sometimes that’s how it goes.”
Canada opened the final quarter with their defence dialled all the way up. Though the team was able to get back within six, they wouldn't get any closer.
“I thought our team played with a ton of heart to get back in there, we cut it down to a manageable margin,” Thomaidis said. “They hit some key shots in that time to extend it. [We’re] just disappointed [in the loss].”
“We had high hopes, we still do,” Thomaidis said. “We’re not done yet. We’re going to wait this out and hopefully get through to the next round and the quarterfinals and continue to improve.”