WHAT A DAY in Canadian Basketball.
The Canadian Senior Women’s Basketball team headed into their final game of the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in a Win and Get In situation.
After going 1-1 in their first two games against Hungary and Spain, Canada had one last chance to punch their ticket to Paris this morning in a game against 2020 Olympic Silver medalists Japan.
Canada only faced eliminated if they lost against Japan AND Hungary beat Spain in the game following.
Well, it turned into a whirlwind of a day in BOTH games, resulting in Canada CLINCHING their spot at the 2024 Olympics in Paris, France.
Canada vs Japan Game Recap
Heading into the game against Japan, Canada’s game plan was presumably to force the Japanese inside and avoid them going off from three point range. Japan simply do not have the size to defend players like Kayla Alexander and Natalie Achonwa.
Both teams were going bucket for bucket in the first quarter, with Canada allowing Japan to get inside for lay ups as opposed to letting them shoot from three.
Canada on the other hand tried to feed their bigs in the paint as much as possible. Which explains why Natalie Achonwa led all scorers on Canada with eight points and Alexander had five of her own after one quarter.
In the second quarter, Japan didn’t make their first three of the game until the six minute mark. They also racked up fouls early as well. Despite Canada getting it going a little offensively, Japan kept finding success in the paint.
Japan made a run to get up by 10 points, and Canada’s task for the rest of the half was to get back in it. Laeticia Amihere was huge in this effort with three blocks, and Bridget Carleton’s shots were starting to fall.
The half ended with Sami Hill forcing the foul on Japan, making both of her free throws to get Canada down by four at halftime. It was 50-46 for Japan.
Canada came out of the halftime break with a vengeance, bridging the gap in score and being a bit more edgy on defence. Japan didn’t go away though, continuing to push into the paint.
Bridget Carleton was huge in trying to take advantage of Japan’s tough defence, getting to the free throw line. Japan was able to get up by five again with four minutes to go in the third.
Canada was almost able to tie the game at the end of the third, but a travel call stopped the basket from counting.
Canada was down 70-67 going into the fourth.
The fourth quarter was more of the same tough basketball. Japan continued to bounce from their five point lead, but Bridget Carleton was carrying her team, getting multiple and-ones to keep Canada in it.
Canada had to keep their fouls down, as Shay Colley was fouled out with eight minutes left in the game. Yet, Canada tied it up with four minutes to go.
An offensive drought, some costly turnovers, and the grit of the Japanese team swayed the game their way. Japan took the game 86-82, booking their own ticket to the Paris Olympics.
Bridget Carleton led the Canadians in scoring with 19 points, 8 rebounds, one assist. Nirra Fields scored 17 points, seven rebounds, one assist and one steal. Kayla Alexander had 16 points, 14 rebounds. Natalie Achonwa had 12 points, nine rebounds, three assists, one steal.
Implications — Spain vs Hungary
With the loss to Japan, Canada’s fate was then in the hands of Spain. In order for the Canadians to make it to Paris, Spain needed to win over the Hungarian hosts in their game.
Going into halftime of that game, Spain was down 19 points. The Hungarians were absolutely shutting down the Spanish offence and not allowing them to get anything.
For a bit there, it seemed like hope was dwindling for Canada’s Olympic spot. Yet, somehow, the Spanish team was able to come back from a 22-point deficit and get back in the game.
Around the time Spain was 10 points behind Hungary, Chelsea happened to promise the entirety of twitter that she would make them Spanish Paella if Spain won the game, see below:
If Spain wins this game and Canada goes to the Olympics I will make Paella for literally everyone on this app— chelsea leite (@chelsealeite) February 11, 2024
Maybe it was that promise to the universe... maybe it was the basketball gods. Whatever happened, Spain won their game against Hungary by ONE POINT.
With that win, Canada won the tiebreak over Hungary, eliminating the tournament hosts and sending Canada to the OLYMPICS.
It is the fourth time in a row that the Canadian Women’s basketball team has made the Olympics, and the first time since 2000 that both the men’s and women’s programs will be at the Olympics together.
Canadians can now sigh in relief...
The tournament may not have gone the way Canada had hoped, losing two of three games in gritty battles, but that does not matter anymore. They will have months to regroup, some extra players coming in, and a fresh chance on the world stage.
After their fourth place finish at the FIBA World Cup in 2022, Canada will be looking to make a splash in Paris.
...and Chelsea needs to go find a good Paella recipe??
See you in Paris!