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HomeSportsNBACanadian women's basketball team opens AmeriCup with decisive win over host Mexico

Canadian women’s basketball team opens AmeriCup with decisive win over host Mexico

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Within seconds of Canada’s opening game at the 2023 FIBA Women’s AmeriCup on Sunday, it became abundantly clear that Canada planned to do everything they could to pressure the host Mexican team.

Just five seconds into the game in León, guard Shay Colley exploded down the court off of a jump-ball win by centre Kayla Alexander to lay-in Canada’s first two points of the night – a lead the Canadians did not relinquish on the way to an 83-57 victory.

That relentless pressure showed up all over the court in the first frame, with Canada out-rebounding Mexico 8-1 on the offensive end, as well as forcing six turnovers to take a 23-7 lead into the second quarter.

Mexico weathered the storm in the second to bring the score within 13, but Canada outscored the host team the rest of the way 49-36.

Colley kept up the pace from her hot start to lead Canada with 19 points, while Montreal guard Nirra Fields chipped in 14 points and four steals, providing an exclamation point with a spectacular and-one layup in the first half.

“A win is a win, but we have high standards for ourselves so we have to regroup and come back tomorrow,” Colley said to Canada Basketball.

32-year-old Alexander – the oldest member of a young team – had 10 points and accumulated an astounding 18 rebounds, with 10 on the offensive end, which set the tone for a Canadian team that held the edge in total rebounds 66-44 and offensive rebounds 35-7.

The 2021 Olympian from Milton, Ont., brings a plethora of experience to a Canadian team missing key WNBA players such as Kia Nurse of the Seattle Storm, Atlanta Dream rookie Laeticia Amihere, and Minnesota Lynx teammates Bridget Carleton and Natalie Achonwa.

The void created from those players’ absences provides an opportunity for younger members of the team at the tournament, such as 18-year-old Cassandre Prosper of Montreal and 20-year-old Uconn standout Aaliyah Edwards of Kingston, Ont., both of whom were named starters at forward for Sunday’s game.

21-year-old forward Yvonne Ejim of Calgary also had 12 points and six rebounds in her debut with the senior women’s team.

Prosper struggled offensively, shooting 3-for-12 from the field for six points, but fit right in with Canada’s stifling defence, forcing three steals.

Edwards similarly shot just 3-for-10, finishing with nine points, eight rebounds and two assists.

WATCH | UConn’s Aaliyah Edwards receives no shortage of Canadian support:

UConn basketball player Aaliyah Edwards on her Canadian support and inspiration

Aaliyah Edwards thanked her teammates from the Canadian women’s national basketball team for helping her compete as a student-athlete for the UConn Huskies and contend for a U.S. collegiate championship.

Mexico was led in scoring by guard Sofia Pyan with 10 points, while forward Mariana Valenzuela unfortunately exited the game with just a minute to go with an apparent knee injury.

“Canada is a top five team in the world,” Mexico head coach Lindsey Harding said to Canada Basketball. “They go to every Olympics. We knew this would be a tough task for us, but it’s also a good measuring stick for us to see where we want to be, where we want to go. That’s what a top team looks like.”

The fresh legs certainly helped the Canadian squad start strong, as they were the last of the 10 teams in the tournament to get their first game underway, with Mexico coming off of a 69-62 win over the Dominican Republic on Saturday.

Canada’s endurance will be tested quickly as they will play all four Group B games in as many days, taking on Puerto Rico, Colombia and the Dominican Republic in succession Monday through Wednesday.

No. 10-ranked Puerto Rico may present No. 5 Canada with its stiffest test in round-robin play, already sitting atop the group standings at 2-0 after a 63-62 win over No. 32 Colombia on Saturday, followed by a 73-47 victory over No. 35 Dominican Republic on Sunday.

Group A comprises of Argentina, Brazil, Cuba,, Venezuela and the world No. 1 U.S team.

The top four teams in each group will advance to the quarterfinals on Friday, with the tournament wrapping up with the gold-medal game on Sunday.

Battling for a spot at 2024 Olympics

The top team outside of the U.S. at the tournament will advance directly to February’s Olympic qualifying tournament, while other teams are relegated to a pre-Olympic qualifying tournament in the fall.

The Americans qualified for the 2024 Olympics already by winning the World Cup in October, taking down the Canadian team 83-43 in the semifinals along the way.

Canada has collected 12 medals (three gold, two silver, seven bronze) across the 17 occurrences of the now bi-yearly tournament, dating back to 1989. The Canadian team’s fourth-place finish in 2021 was the first time Canada finished off the podium since 2007.

Canadian roster

Guards:

  • #1 Aislinn Konig — Langley, B.C.
  • #2 Shay Colley — Brampton, Ont.
  • #4 Sami Hill — Toronto
  • #12 Syla Swords — Sudbury, Ont.
  • #21 Nirra Fields — Montreal
  • #30 Taya Hanson — Kelowna, B.C.

Forwards:

  • #3 Merissah Russell — Ottawa
  • #8 Cassandre Prosper — Montreal
  • #9 Yvonne Ejim — Calgary
  • #24 Aaliyah Edwards — Kingston, Ont.

Centres:

  • #10 Emily Potter — Winnipeg
  • #14 Kayla Alexander — Milton, Ont.



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