SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (June 12, 2021) - It was a triumphant return to the court for the Canadian Senior Women’s National Team on Saturday afternoon. Playing together for the first time in nearly 16 months, Canada recorded a dominant 101-41 victory over the U.S. Virgin Islands in their first game of the FIBA Women’s AmeriCup 2021.
Showing few signs of the extended layoff, Canada ran out to an early 18-2 lead in the first quarter and they didn’t let up the rest of the way. From the stifling defence, holding the U.S. Virgin Islands to just 27 percent shooting in the game, to the smooth ball movement leading to a parade of three-pointers, the Canadians were locked in from the opening tip until the final buzzer sounded.
“I thought we moved the ball really well,” head coach Lisa Thomaidis said. “We have some dynamic players, we got into the paint, there was a collapse and we were kicking the ball out for some nice open looks. We were able to get out in transition and get some quick attacks, cause some turnovers and get out for some run outs that way. That was really, I think, what led to the quick start.”
Shaina Pellington finished with a game-high 16 points as Canada had six players finish in double figures. Nirra Fields and Jamie Scott added 14 points apiece, while Aaliyah Edwards had 13 points, Aislinn Konig added 12 points and Laeticia Amihere added 10 in the victory. Amihere also added three blocked shots in 16 minutes off the bench. The U.S. Virgin Islands were led by Anisha Briana George who scored 11 points in the loss.
“Offence wasn’t our primary objective,” Team Captain Miranda Ayim said. “We wanted some good defensive stops, making sure that our foundation and our habits were really solid for the rest of the tournament.”
Team Canada held a 27-7 lead after the opening quarter and then extended the advantage to 48-13 at the half. The team went into the fourth leading 64-25 and continued to score from distance in the final frame.
Canada finished with 15 threes, shooting 48 percent from beyond the arc. Scott and Konig connected on four three-pointers each, while Shay Colley added three of her own. The team recorded 25 assists on 34 made field goals. Canada’s scoring attack was extremely balanced as 10 players scored and six reached double figures. The team’s depth was on full display as Canada received a 60-point effort from its bench in the win.
“I think whenever a team is attacking and able to get in the key and kick it out, we had some shooters knocking it down for us, that’s a good recipe for success,” Ayim said.
After being apart for nearly 16 months due to the coronavirus pandemic, just getting to share the court again was thrilling for Canada.
“It was so awesome to see the players and staff back together after such a long hiatus,” Thomaidis said. “To finally be back on the court and play, from a coach's perspective I was just so excited to see them out there. I'm sure the players were just raring to go. We’ve had enough of playing against one another.”
To pick a single play that illustrated the focus of Canada in Saturday's win, Pellington recorded her second steal with 39 seconds remaining. Despite Canada holding a 99-39 advantage at that point, Pellington’s defence still didn’t let up. After getting the steal, Pellington drove hard to the hoop, and was rewarded with a pair of free throws.
Ayim put the joy of getting to be back on the court competing with her teammates into perspective.
“On a zoomed out aspect, we know we’re lucky to even be doing our job right now,” she said. “ A lot of people aren’t as fortunate. The fact that we’re able to get together and play, that’s been pretty incredible. Whenever you put the Canada [jersey] on, it’s something else. It’s pretty nice. [Today was the] first game of a long summer.”
Up next, the Canadians will face Brazil on Sunday at 3:10 p.m. ET. Fans in Canada can catch all the action live on DAZN.