Shenzhen, China - August 12 - 23, 2011

2011 Summer Universiade

Summer Universiade W BBall (Aug 14): Canada wins nail biter in opener

Photo credit Freestyle Photography

SHENZHEN, China (CIS) – The 26th Summer Universiade has been a showcase for the exquisite artistic beauty of China, but inside the Shenzhen Foreign Language High School Gymnasium on Sunday morning Canada’s women’s basketball opener against Poland resembled nothing of the Ming dynasty, as the Canadians squeaked out an ugly 52-50 win.

STATISTICS: CAN-POL

The Canadians (1-0) are back in action on Monday when they face Russia (0-0) at 10 a.m. local time (Sunday, 10 p.m. ET). A win by Canada or a loss by Poland (0-1) against the Russians on Tuesday will move Canada into the quarter-finals. The Canadians find themselves in a three-team pool as South Africa pulled out of the tournament a week prior to the start of the competition.

“We could have buckled in the fourth quarter, but I’m really proud of how the team played in the final moments of this game,” said Team Canada head coach Lisa Thomaidis. “In the first half I felt some people fell into some old habits, and the reality of playing at an international tournament is that the officiating will be more stringent than playing university basketball in North America, and our athletes need to adjust accordingly.”

Guards Justine Colley and Kendel Ross took Canada on their shoulders late in the fourth. With their squadron trailing 48-43 with just under two minutes remaining, Vernon, B.C., native Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe drained a runner to bring the Canucks back within three. Following a Poland offensive foul, Colley sliced into the lane, getting her lay-up to drop while being hacked on the arm, making the subsequent free throw to knot the score at 48-48.

After the Canadians forced a Poland miss, Colley, a product of Saint Mary’s University, again took the ball to the hole, putting Canada up 50-48 with only 48 seconds to play. 

“The seas parted in the lane, and I was told by our coaches in that situation to make something happen,” said the East Preston, N.S., native, who finished the game with 11 points. “We weren’t executing well throughout the game offensively, but we were able to pull together down the stretch and finish today.” 

With 19 seconds left on the clock, Poland’s Joanna Kedzia came off the bench to connect on a 12-foot jumper to tie the game at 50-50.

But while her team struggled to discover any offensive rhythm over 39 minutes, Ross took it upon herself to find a way to score, and the Sarnia, Ont., product cut up through the left side of the paint to drain the winning bucket with only four seconds to play. 

“[The coaching staff] talked to us about ball screens and when to go to the rim, and I saw an opportunity and finished,” said Ross, who ended the morning with a team-high 13 points. “After the first half, we realized we had to play Canada basketball, and that was challenging on defence. We play tough, but we need to be better about picking our spots.”

In the first half, after being held to just two points over the opening four minutes and trailing 6-2, the Canadians generated a 9-0 run to take their first lead of the game at 11-6. Poland answered, taking advantage of eight first quarter personal fouls by Canada with a 7-0 run of their own to retake the lead. However Elle Kerfoot scored a lay-up at the buzzer to tie the affair at 15-15. 

The second quarter featured more offensive woes on both sides. Canada held Poland to just 26 per cent shooting (6-for-23) over the opening 20 minutes, however committed 14 turnovers themselves and held a slim 26-25 lead as they walked back to the locker rooms.

The teams traded the lead twice in the third quarter, with Canada holding a 38-35 margin moving into the fourth. 

Canada won in spite of 32 turnovers. Agnieszka Skobel led Poland with 15 points.

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