Canada’s 3×3 basketball team opened its title defence at the Women’s Series Final with three consecutive victories Saturday in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.
A balanced attack and strong shooting from the field (69 per cent) keyed a 22-17 victory over the host squad in the opener and propelled the Canadians to wins over France (16-14) and Germany (21-13) in Pool A action.
Michelle and Katherine Plouffe, Kacie Bosch and Paige Crozon secured a semifinal berth and will play Germany or the United States on Sunday at 4 a.m. ET. China also went 3-0 and will face France or Neftchi out of Azerbaijan in the other semifinal at 4:25 a.m. The final is scheduled for 5:20 a.m.
The Canadians entered the Final third in the season standings with 725 points, behind second-place Neftchi out of Azerbaijan (831) and ahead of fourth-place France (720).
However, Canada boasts more tournament victories than any other team (five) despite playing in five fewer events than Neftchi and France.
Against Mongolia, the Canadians never led by more than four points until Crozon made it 15-10 with 4:45 left in the 10-minute match.
But Mongolia immediately cut into the deficit on a Khulan Onolbaatar two-point shot.
Crozon comes up big with 2-pointer
Mongolia closed to within 16-14 with 4:19 on the clock after Indra Ulzibat’s two-pointer but Canada held strong and ended the match (first team to 21 points) on a Crozon two to make it 22-17.
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The native of Humboldt, Sask., led her team with seven points. The Plouffe sisters had six points each and Bosch three.
Neither Canada nor France held more than a two-point advantage in the second contest for both teams.
Tied 12-12, Michelle Plouffe converted a pair of free throws with 1:44 remaining but France drew even, thanks to Laetitia Guapo and Marie Mane.
Michelle Plouffe salted the game away two seconds from the buzzer with a two-pointer. She had a game-high nine points while Katherine added four points and eight rebounds, the most of any player.
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Canada handed Germany its second loss of the day, going 8-for-11 (73 per cent) from the field and sinking all three of its free throws.
While the Canadians never trailed in the match, they didn’t pull away until the halfway mark when the Plouffes split six points on a run for a 14-8 lead with 4:24 left.
5 season titles
Luana Rodefeld cut the deficit to 15-12 but Canada ended the match with 2:37 to spare, scoring the final five points, courtesy Michelle Plouffe. She racked up 11 points and six rebounds, both game highs.
WATCH | Full coverage of Canada vs. Germany:
Two weeks ago, the Canadians won in Montreal for their fifth title of the season, capping a 15-0 record on home soil that also included wins in Edmonton and Quebec City.
Next summer, they want to stand atop the podium at the Paris Olympics.
“That’s why we started, that’s why we’re still here, it’s to have that goal,” Edmonton’s Katherine Plouffe told The Canadian Press. “It will be very special when we get there.”
First, they’ll need to qualify, something they didn’t have a chance to do when 3×3 basketball made its Olympic debut at the Tokyo Games in 2021.
The sisters have played in the Olympics in five-on-five play, but in 3×3 a combination of puzzling rules limited Canada to sending only one team from one gender to the Tokyo qualification tournament.
Canada Basketball ultimately sent the men, who hadn’t had a five-on-five team at the Games since 2000.