In a thrilling encounter, Canada’s basketball squad edged past Spain with a scoreline of 88-85 during their FIBA World Cup Group L match held in Jakarta last Sunday.
This crucial win has now assured the Canadian men’s basketball ensemble a spot in the upcoming Summer Olympics slated to be in Paris. By toppling Spain, Canada has now set a date with Slovenia in the World Cup quarterfinals this Wednesday.
Their successful campaign, together with setbacks faced by Brazil, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic, has solidified Canada’s position for the Olympics under the FIBA Americas qualification.
Emerging as the standout performer, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander recorded an impressive 30 points, which included 14 successful shots from the free-throw line. This powerhouse performance has propelled Canada into a decisive quarterfinal against Slovenia.
Reflecting on the close win and the Olympic spot, Gilgeous-Alexander shared, “This feels like making history. It’s a feeling that’s hard to put into words. We owe this to countless individuals who’ve dedicated themselves to the program. We aim to make them proud both in this tournament and at the Olympics.”
In this intense face-off, Dillon Brooks was another notable player for Canada with 24 points and a stellar defense. Gilgeous-Alexander also contributed with seven assists and four rebounds. RJ Barrett, summing up the team spirit, said, “We rallied. Dillon was immense, and Shai sealed the game. Even when trailing by 12 at the beginning of the fourth quarter, we held our ground.”
For Spain, who are the reigning World Cup champions, Will Hernangomez led the charge with 25 points, while Santiago Aldama chipped in with 18.
Canada’s next challenge will be Luka Doncic’s Slovenia. After their recent 100-71 loss to Germany, Slovenia now stands at a 4-1 record, the same as Canada.
The victor of Canada and Slovenia’s face-off will then challenge the winner of Lithuania vs. Serbia in the tournament’s semifinals.
On a parallel note, the other matches to look forward to include Italy battling the United States, while Germany takes on Latvia. The tournament’s grand finale is scheduled for the upcoming Sunday.
Recounting the intense final moments, Gilgeous-Alexander made a crucial layup, drawing a foul and reducing the gap to a single point. Hernangomez was impeccable from the free-throw line, but Brooks’ timely three-pointer tied the game. Defensively, Brooks forced a pivotal turnover, setting the stage for Gilgeous-Alexander’s game-sealing performances.
Sharing his perspective on the team’s chances, former coach Jay Triano voiced his confidence in the 2023 Canadian side. “I’m bullish about their chances at the World Cup. They have what it takes to make a deep run and seal an Olympic spot,” he remarked.
In the final seconds, it was a nerve-wracking seesaw of points with Spain’s Aldama sinking a three-pointer, bringing Spain to within one. Yet, Gilgeous-Alexander’s clutch performance at the free-throw line ensured Canada’s victory.
Reflecting on the match, Gilgeous-Alexander commented, “It was top-tier basketball. We faced numerous challenges, but Spain was commendable. It was a complete game from both sides.”