OSAKA, Japan (February 12, 2022) -- The Senior Women’s National Team earned a dominant 96-64 victory over Bosnia and Herzegovina in Osaka, Japan at the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup Qualifying Tournament 2022 on Saturday. Along with the victory, Canada has qualified for the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup 2022 in Sydney, Australia.
“We came here and did what our goal was,” Bridget Carleton said. “Our goal was to qualify. Obviously, having not a lot of time together, not a lot of time with two new coaches, we’re really proud of this effort today. To win in the fashion we did and to play as a team gives us confidence going forward and going into the summer.”
Carleton had an incredible performance to lead Canada in the victory, finishing with a game-high 26 points while shooting 11-for-12 from the floor, including 6-for-7 from the three-point line. Team Canada head coach Víctor LaPeña said he spoke with Carleton on Friday, encouraging her to look for her shot and be more aggressive offensively.
“With her level, the defence of our rival has to be super ready,” he said. “If it's just one on one [defence], with her level, usually it’s two or three points. I’m very, very happy because her answer on the court was amazing.
Joining Carleton was Natalie Achonwa who turned in a stellar all-around effort against Bosnia and Herzegovina, finishing with 21 points, eight rebounds, six assists and two steals. Achonwa shot 8-for-10 from the floor.
“Natalie has a high basketball knowledge, in offence and in defence,” LaPeña said. “It’s like a point guard on the court. I tried to use Natalie as a point guard. Not to push the ball, but to have the ball in her hands to make decisions. On defence she knows perfectly what I want from her. [With] Nat I was talking about some things that can help her on the court and how she has to help the rest of her teammates on offence. On offence she has to help the rest of the teammates, and on defence I have to help her. It’s like an orchestra.”
Achonwa played things perfectly on Saturday, having a hand in every part of the win. When she wasn’t scoring or setting up her teammates to score, she was grabbing rebounds and creating extra possessions while helping Canada to out-rebound their opponent 39-22.
Though the teams traded baskets to start the game, a layup from Nirra Fields put Canada ahead 6-5 with 8:08 remaining in the opening quarter. The Canadians never trailed again, leading by 11 after the first quarter and 21 at the half. Though things were closer in the third, with Canada winning the quarter by just three, 19-16, the team still held a 76-52 advantage heading into the fourth.
Canada continued to push on both ends of the floor to open the final frame, reeling off a 9-0 run to pull ahead by 33 points midway through the quarter. Thanks to Canada’s defence, Bosnia and Herzegovina didn’t score until the 6:17 mark of the fourth. Canada rolled to the victory from there, but they didn’t let up on either end of the court, continuing to push and challenge Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as themselves.
Kayla Alexander added 14 points and seven rebounds for Canada and Shay Colley scored 11 points in the win.
“My players played amazing today,” LaPeña said. “Just to see their faces once the game finished, for me, was the most important. Everybody is happy, we qualified for the World Cup by ourselves, this is very very important. The passion, the energy they put on the court was enough to compete and we respect Bosniawe…we did our best on the court.”
Nikolina Babic led Bosnia and Herzegovina with 16 points, as Canada helped hold Jonquel Jones to 15 points on 5-for-14 field goals after a quick start from Jones in the first quarter.
“When we prepare our game we are thinking about the strengths of the rival to try to stop them, especially on this team, Jonquel Jones,” LaPeña said. “I think the players did a great job about it. Jonquel Jones is a superstar. One of the top five [players] in the world, but today my players, especially Kayla Alexander, Laeticia Amihere, tried to make her tired.”
Canada shot 60 percent from the floor in the game, including 42 percent from beyond the arc as they connected on 8-of-19 attempts from three. In comparison, their defence helped hold Bosnia and Herzegovina to just 40 percent shooting.
Carleton’s six three-pointers tied Bosnia and Herzegovina’s total as a team. She scored from all over the court on Saturday and she made it look effortless.
“Coach challenged me yesterday before practice to keep looking for my shot and be more aggressive,” Carleton said. “To keep putting myself out there to take tough shots and be more assertive on the offensive end especially. That was my mindset coming into the game. Once the first couple of shots start going down you start to feel good and you’re willing to take some tougher shots that I don’t normally take. I always want to create the best shot for the team and sometimes the shot is falling for me and it was today.”
Canada will leave Japan with a 1-1 record in the tournament. The win also gave head coach LaPeña his first victory with the program.