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Canada basketball
Holly MacKenzie

SGA, Dillon Brooks lead Canada in comeback victory against Spain to advance to World Cup quarter-finals, Olympic Games

JAKARTA, Indonesia (Sept. 3, 2023) – Paris, here they come. Canada’s Senior Men’s National Team is headed to the 2024 Olympic Games after qualifying for the quarter-finals at the FIBA Men’s Basketball World Cup 2023 with an 88-85 victory against world No. 1 Spain.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was sensational in the comeback win with 30 points as he scored or assisted on Canada’s final 17 points of the game and was a perfect 6-for-6 from the free throw line in the final 21 seconds to secure the win. Dillon Brooks had 22 points, including 11 in the fourth quarter where Canada outscored Spain 27-12, and RJ Barrett added 16 points.

“We’re a part of history,” Gilgeous-Alexander said. “It’s something that’s almost indescribable … So many people along the way have put in so much work for this program and having the opportunity to do so, we want to thank them and also represent them when we go, and in the rest of this tournament [as well].”

Willy Hernangomez had 25 points, Santiago Aldama scored 20 points and Alex Abrines added 11 in the loss for Spain.

After trailing by 10 at the half, the Canadians battled back in the third quarter to go ahead by three before Spain and outscored Canada 21-6 in the final 4:44 of the quarter to go into the fourth with a 12-point lead.

“We just dug deep,” Barrett said. “Dillon was huge, Shai iced the game, made all the free throws. We just dug deep, man. We hit some adversity, down 12 to start the fourth quarter and we just stayed together.”

Canada scored the first eight points of the fourth as Brooks drilled a three to open the quarter and get Canada within nine. A pair of free throws from Gilgeous-Alexander made it 73-66 and a second three from Brooks in the quarter trimmed the deficit to four before Spain scored its first points of the quarter with 6:04 remaining.

“It was a really, really good game,” Gilgeous-Alexander said. “Really high-level basketball. It was a lot of adversity. They played a really well-rounded game from start to finish. It’s a really good team over there. Hats off to them. I think our group just wanted it a little bit more. We knew what was at stake and we were willing to do whatever it takes to get it done."

A pair of free throws from Willy Hernangomez extended Spain’s lead back to seven with four minutes remaining, but a huge offensive rebound for Nickeil Alexander-Walker led to Gilgeous-Alexander finding Alexander-Walker in the corner for three to get Canada back within four with 3:38 remaining.

Canada dialled up its defence in the fourth, taking Spain completely out of their offensive rhythm as Gilgeous-Alexander scored on a drive while being fouled. He made the free throw to complete the three-point play and get Canada within a point, 78-77, with 1:51 remaining. After free throws from Hernangomez put Spain back up by three, Brooks hit his third three of the quarter to tie the game at 80 with 1:10 remaining before forcing a turnover on the other end.

“It was special,” Gilgeous-Alexander said of Brooks’ fourth quarter. “One for the books. He’s a leader. He does the right things on the basketball floor. He plays with the right energy. He’s a guy you always want on your team. Things haven’t been going his way the whole tournament, the past month and a half, but he’s had the right energy, he’s done the right things for the team and he was rewarded tonight by the basketball gods. He was big that whole fourth quarter. He made shots, played defensively like he normally does. He was ready for the moment. Big-time game.”

Gilgeous-Alexander took it from there.

A stepback jumper with 44 seconds remaining put Canada in front 82-80. Next was a steal before being fouled and earning a trip to the line. He made both free throws to put Canada ahead by four with 21 seconds remaining. A layup from Juan Nunez brought Spain within two with 15 seconds on the clock, but Gilgeous-Alexander sank another pair of free throws to keep Canada in front by four with 13 seconds remaining.

After a three from Aldama trimmed the lead to just a point with five seconds on the clock, Gilgeous-Alexander was fouled again with four seconds on the clock. He calmly sank both free throws to keep Canada in front by three and seal the victory.

Gilgeous-Alexander finished the game 14-for-16 from the line and 7-for-12 from the floor. Brooks was a perfect 3-for-3 from beyond the arc, with all of his three-pointers coming in the fourth.

“We found a way,” Team Canada head coach Jordi Fernández said. “It was a team effort. Shai and Dillon took us home. It’s one of those special moments. Going to the Olympics, it’s very special. It’s very special for the program, but for these guys, what they’ve done since August 1, it’s great, but now we have to keep thinking about the next game. We have three more games to go [at the World Cup]. We didn’t come here just to go to the Olympics. I told the guys we want to make sure that everybody knows we're knocking at the door and we’re thirsty for more.”

The win qualifies Canada for its first trip to the Olympics since 2000.

“It was awesome,” Fernández said of the qualification. “It means a lot to Rowan [Barrett], Michael Bartlett, to the whole board and people who are supporting this program and want to do things the right way. We have the talent to do this for many, many years. I’m happy for those people. I’m happy for the coaches who worked here before. Nick Nurse, Jay Triano, they are part of what we’re doing. They did a lot for this program. Congrats to them too. They always did everything to grow it. [I’m feeling] happy and the next game is the quarterfinals now.”

For Barrett, who has grown up with his father’s No. 9 Olympic jersey hanging on the wall at home, the feeling was pure elation.

“Man, it's amazing,” he said. “Just to make history. The last time we went to the Olympics, I was just born. We

Tip-off on Sunday is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. ET / 6:30 a.m. PT. Fans in Canada can catch all of the action live on Sportsnet, as well as streaming on SN Now.