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Canada basketball
Holly MacKenzie

Canada qualifies for FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 with 94-56 win over Venezuela


EDMONTON, Alberta (Nov. 10, 2022) - The Canadian Senior Men’s National Team defeated Venezuela 94-56 in the FIBA Basketball World Cup Americas Qualifiers to book their ticket to the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023.

Canada was dominant in the victory that moved the team to a perfect 9-0 in qualifying as they remain the lone undefeated team in the Americas.

“The qualification, that's what we were here for,” Team Canada Associate Head Coach Nate Bjorkgren said. “We’ve taken every game one game at a time. All of our focus here has been on Venezuela for the last couple of months and our guys showed up and played that way today.”

Kassius Robertson was a perfect 6-for-6 from the floor for his game-high 16 points in 18 minutes to lead six Canadians in double figures. Owen Klassen had an 11-point, 10-rebound double-double while Kenny Chery had 12 points to go with seven rebounds, six assists and two steals and Conor Morgan and Thomas Scrubb added 12 points apiece in the victory.

“It means a lot,” Robertson said of qualifying for the World Cup. “A lot of us come from far away to play these games. For me, and I can speak for a lot of guys on the team, this is almost like a vacation for us. It’s super focused of course, but being with our country men, especially being on Canadian soil, it’s amazing for us. Being able to play for our country, it’s super fun.

“It’s been a long time coming for our country and we’ve been at it for over a year with these windows,” Robertson continued.

The Canadians shot 51 percent from the floor and connected on 14-of-31 three-pointers (45 percent), while holding Venezuela to just 34 percent shooting from the floor, including 6-for-21 from beyond the arc (29 percent). Canada won the rebounding battle 54-36, including a 20-10 advantage on the offensive glass while 11 different players scored and Canada held a 54-28 edge in bench points scored.

Canada got off to a quick start in the game and never looked back. After building a 7-0 lead before Venezuela scored its first basket of the game, Canada continued to build on its lead as a three from Scrubb gave Canada a 12-3 advantage. Another three-pointer, this one from Aaron Best, extended the lead to double digits with 4:28 remaining in the quarter. After a quick five-point flurry for Robertson, Canada held a 25-10 lead after the opening 10 minutes.

“We said we wanted to come out and hit first and hit again and again and they did,” Bjorkgren said. “I love coaching this team. I really do. They just kept coming at them. It’s an honour to coach for this country and this team and it’s really fun to watch."

Venezuela opened the second quarter strong, keeping pace with Canada until a three-pointer from Kenny Chery extended Canada’s lead back to 13 points with 2:42 remaining in the half. After a jumper from Venezuela’s Windi Graterol, Klassen scored on an offensive putback and then Phil Scrubb drilled a three to force Venezuela into a timeout as they trailed by 16 with 1:06 remaining in the half.

The Canadians held a 15-point lead, 46-31, at the break thanks to a 10-point first half from T. Scrubb and six assists to zero turnovers from Kenny Chery.

As good as Canada was in the first half, they were even better, on both ends of the floor, in the second.

A layup for P. Scrubb opened the second-half scoring to increase Canada’s lead to 17 before Yohanner Sifontes came back with a layup of his own for Venezuela. Chery’s second three of the game made it 51-33 Canada with 7:21 remaining in the third, A minute later, Chery made his third three of the game, extending the lead to 54-33. Next up it was Kassius Robertson hitting a pull-up jumper, and then, eight seconds later, drilling a three while being fouled. After he completed the four-point play, a layup from Klassen had Canada leading 64-38 as Venezuela called timeout with 4:01 remaining in the third.

“One of the big things that we talk about is the shot contest,” Bjorkgren said. “We really want to contest every shot with everything that we’ve got. I love how we disrupted the things that they were trying to get in, the sets that they were trying to do. I can't say enough about Kassius about his focus on defence, how physical he plays and the pace at which he plays. He’s very hard to guard and he knows how to guard other shooters.”

After a three-pointer for Conor Morgan and then a three-point play for Trae Bell-Haynes, Canada led 70-42 heading into the final quarter.

Klassen opened the fourth quarter with a three-point play as Canada continued to roll through the fourth quarter en route to victory.

“Our team defence was really locked in there,” Bjorkgren said. “We gave up [25] points in the second half, I think it was 11 in the third and [14] in the fourth, but it doesn’t happen unless you start the game in that way.”

Up next for the Canadians is a game against Panama on Sunday, November 13 that will also be played at the Edmonton EXPO Centre.

“The crowd was awesome tonight,” Robertson said. “We loved the turnout. Edmonton came out and we really appreciate that.”

With their goal of qualifying for the World Cup accomplished, the Senior Men’s National Team have no plans of letting up in their remaining three games in the Americas World Cup qualifiers.

“We have a saying, Coach said before the game, we have to prove and reprove,” Robertson said. “Regardless of if we qualified or if we’ve got a couple more games to go, we’re still out for blood. We’re not letting up.”

For Bjorkgren and his staff, they’ve already moved on from Venezuela and will begin preparing for Sunday’s game against Panama.

“We qualified,” Bjorkgren said. “We’ll enjoy that one here tonight and then we’ll get ready for Panama here in the next couple of days. The games keep coming.”