An incredible 2017 continued for Canadian basketball on Sunday, with the women’s senior team capturing the gold medal at the FIBA Women’s Americup tournament.
Things did not look like they were going to go that way early on, with some cold shooting and a long scoreless stretch to start the game conspiring to put them behind out of the gate. With the home crowd behind them, the host Argentina team came out with plenty of energy, locking down on defense and flying around the court, that same energy usually Canada’s defining advantage.
After digging themselves a seven-point hole at halftime, the Canadian women roared back with a monstrous third quarter, including a decisive 13-2 run at one point.
A 16-point edge in the quarter gave them a nine-point lead heading into the fourth, and the combination of that momentum and the length and speed that’s made them such a tough matchup all tournament long carried them for a while from there. It wasn’t without a fight, though, as Argentina kept things close, setting up a final five minutes with Canada clutching on to just the smallest of cushions while once again struggling to score against a very stout defense.
With two minutes and change remaining, Argentina would even temporarily take the lead back, only for Kia Nurse to respond. There was a scary moment that followed, with Argentine guard Debora Gonzalez appearing to suffer a knee injury and several of her teammates responding with great emotion. The Argentine side settled and forced a Katherine Plouffe turnover, then grabbed a huge offensive rebound after missing on a pull-up two. The 3-point attempt that followed was also errant, though, and Nirra Fields extended the lead to two by splitting a pair at the free-throw line.
That set up a last-ditch effort for Argentina in the form of a 30-foot heave, but it missed, sending a very impressive host team to tears and once again crowning Canada the Americup champions.
Barely. Canada finished shooting 33.9 percent for the game but managed 4-of-10 on threes, 17-of-22 at the line, and a massive 13-rebound advantage on the glass. Nurse led three Canadian women in double-figures with 12 points, while Katherine Plouffe grabbed 11 rebounds and Miah-Marie Langlois dished four assists. Fields led the team in scoring for the tournament and had a 7-6-2 line here in 23 minutes, shortened in part due to some foul trouble, and earned tournament MVP honors for her work.
The win gives Canada a flawless finish in the event, with a perfect 4-0 record in the round robin, a dominant defeat of Brazil in the semifinal, and the victory over Argentina for gold. The win marks Canada’s second consecutive gold medal in the event and third overall, following their victory in Edmonton in 2015. They also won silver in 2013. (Canada hasn’t lost to any team from their region other than the United States in a major tournament since 2013; the U.S. was not participating here.)
By way of finishing top-three in this tournament, they’ve also qualified for the 2018 Women’s World Cup. Canada placed fifth there in 2014 and hasn’t medaled since 1986, something they’ll be looking to rectify as they continue their ascent up the international ladder – Canada ranked sixth in the FIBA update last summer and could push even higher in this year’s update.
The win also continues just a preposterously exciting couple of months for the Canadian program overall. They’ve medalled in all five FIBA events this summer across both genders and multiple age groups, which includes an Under-19 FIBA gold on the men’s side – the first ever FIBA or Olympic gold on that side of the program – and will hopefully continue when the senior men’s team attempt to qualify for the 2019 World Cup at their own Americup tournament beginning later this month.