The Canadian Senior Women’s National Team got underway in their FIBA Qualifying Tournament today. They tipped off against Team Japan, the hosts of the tournament at 5 am eastern standard time, 7:00 pm local time. The Canadian team has a new head coach, Victor Lapena and this was his first game as the head coach. Both teams have already automatically qualified for the FIBA World Cup due to Belarus withdrawal, but still wanted to play well in the qualifying tournament.
Team Japan started the game off with a 6-0 run in the early parts of the first quarter before Team Canada struck back and and took the lead at the end of the first quarter. Canada led 17-15 and Canadian guard Nirra Fields got off to a hot start and scored 9 points in the first quarter. In the second quarter, Canada extended their lead and led by 17 points after the first half. Forward Bridget Carleton picked up the pace in the second quarter and both her and Fields led Canada in scoring at the half with 9 points apiece. Canada led Japan by a score of 40-23.
In the third quarter, Canada took their biggest lead of 20 points thanks in large part of the play of centre Natalie Achonwa and Kayla Alexander by taking advantage of Japan’s posts and scoring whenever they could. However, the tables started to turn in the final minutes of the third quarter when Japan went on a little run to cut Canada’s lead to single digits. Canada led 59-46 after the third quarter. In the fourth quarter, Japan continued to press and eventually cut Canada’s lead to five points late fourth quarter. After that, Japan took command and led for the first time with 3:06 remaining in the game. Canada and Japan traded baskets in the last minutes of the fourth quarter and Canada nor Japan could close each other out, so the game headed to overtime.
In the overtime period, Japan took control over Canada and took their largest lead of 11 points with just under a minute remaining in the overtime period. They were then able to close out Canada and firmly seal the win to improve to 1-0 in the tournament. Canada fell to 0-1. Canada will have to regroup and get ready for their final match of the tournament against Bosnia & Herzegovina on Saturday at 3 pm local time, 1 am eastern standard time.
This was a game that Team Canada should have won. They were in firm and complete control. However, they let Japan’s guards pressure them defensively to cause a ton of turnovers in the fourth quarter. There were some questionable calls in the final period that I believe Canada let it get to them. Nirra Fields along with Natalie Achonwa and Kayla Alexander were terrific. Despite Japan’s guards constantly pressurizing Fields, she was able to handle it a majority of the time. She did well and I think in the last few minutes of the fourth quarter plus overtime took a lot out of her as she wasn’t as efficient as she was earlier in the game.
Japan is really good. I mean, that’s pretty obvious because they are the defending Olympic silver medalists and Ramu Tokaishiki is a good player, but they were able to turn a 20 point deficit into a win. That’s impressive.
Canada still has a ton of work to do to improve and get better and their next opponent is not any easier. It’s against defending WNBA MVP Jonquel Jones for Bosnia & Herzegovina and she will give Team Canada problems. It’s going to be interesting as to see how Canada responds from this loss and how they will prepare to defend her on Saturday.