Canada’s Women National Team earned their third consecutive victory at the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament, defeating Japan 70-68.
While the Canadian squad already punched their ticket for the Olympic Games in Tokyo, Sunday’s game was important in determining who was going to make the Olympic roster.
Natalie Achonwa continued her dominance for Canada in Sunday’s contest against Japan. The Canadian put up 18 points, eight rebounds, and two assists on Sunday. Achonwa showcased her arsenal of basketball skills, whether it was going in the post for a layup, converting a mid-range jump shot or getting a block on defense,
Averaging 18 points per game with 72.7 field goal percentage over the three games, the Indiana Fever player will look to carry this success into the Olympics this summer.
Kia Nurse, the New York Liberty All-Star and decorated Canadian Basketball player put together another stellar performance, leading Canada in scoring 19 points.
Saki Hayashi responded for Team Japan, leading the squad in scoring with 21 points. Ramu Tokashiki and Himawari Akaho contributed on the defensive side of the ball, each leading Japan in rebounds with nine.
Japan started off strong against Canada, taking a 17-15 lead after the first quarter. Hayashi propelled the Japanese offense, converting shots in the paint and taking advantage of Canada off turnovers.
But as the game wore on, the Canadians started finding their rhythm. In the second quarter, Canada began to dictate play on the glass, hustling for offensive rebounds. At 07:29 in the second quarter, Canadian Raincock-Ekunwe recorded an offensive rebound plus drawing the foul, where she converted both free throws. Miah-Marie Langlais displayed her passing ability at 01:26 in the second quarter, finding Miranda Ayim in the post for the layup.
Japan kept chipping away at the Canadian lead in the third quarter, outplaying Canada on fast-break points in transition. Hayashi converted critical threes down the stretch in the fourth quarter, with her layup at 19 seconds remaining to bring the deficit to just two points (67-65). But Nurse converted two free throws with 13 seconds to go, sealing the win for Canada.
Canada finished 3-0 at the FIBA Olympic Qualifying, after victories over Belgium (61-56) and Sweden (80-50). This is the 7th time in the history of the Canadian Women’s Basketball program that they qualified for the Olympics.
“It hasn’t really set in yet but listening to (Thomaidis) talk about it being my, Kim and Miranda’s third Olympics kind of made me emotional,” Achonwa said after her Olympic-clinching win over Sweden. “Knowing that the injuries, the fight, not only just me but what our entire team has been through to get to this point. I don’t think we take it lightly. It’s an honour to be able to represent Canada every time we put a jersey on.