Tatham leads Canada’s third quarter comeback at worlds

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Tamara Tatham (Tamara)

After a blowout loss in their opening game of the FIBA women’s world championships, team Canada found themselves down a large margin once again.

But this time, the Canadians came out of halftime with more energy, and they clawed back to a 65-61 victory over China on Friday.

Down 37-30 at the break, it was the third quarter play of Brampton, Ont.’s Tamara Tatham that sparked the comeback.

“We just played hard,” Tatham told FIBA.com. “They are bigger than us so we had to use speed and quickness to get into the game. I think that was our main focus, playing hard, playing tough and using our speed.”

The 25-year-old scored eight of her 11 points in the third frame. She also tallied five rebounds, four assists, and three steals.

Kim Smith led the Canadians with 25 points.

It was Smith’s basket with eight minutes left in the game that put her team ahead for good.

Head coach Allison McNeill says she was happy with how her team responded after falling behind the Chinese by 13 points.

“These opportunities don’t come around all the time,” she told reporters in a conference call after the game. “Sometimes in the moment you have to just realize ‘Hey, this is it.’ We have a chance here.”

Chen Nan and Miao Lijie  were the top players for China, scoring 22 and 20 points respectively.

In the Chinese, Canada faced a strong team that finished fourth at the Beijing Olympics two years ago, and is ranked seventh in the world.

Meanwhile, the red-and-white sit 12th in the world.

The Canadians are now 1-1 in the tournament after a 72-47 loss to Australia, the defending world champions, on Thursday.

With Friday’s victory, Canada is now almost guaranteed a spot in the next round.

Only if China defeats the Aussies, a favourite to win the tournament, combined with a Canadian loss to Belarus would the maple leaf squad be eliminated.

Heading into the tournament, McNeill says the team knew they were facing tough opponents, and as such, didn’t know what to expect.

“To come in here, when we looked at the pool, I mean we didn’t know,” she told FIBA.com. “We didn’t think we couldn’t beat someone but we just didn’t know, so it’s pretty exciting to have a win over a team that finished so high in the Olympics.

“I’m very proud of my team right now.”

Moving forward, the Canadian team expects to continue improving.

“It’s just going to keep building for us,” Tatham said. “We know what we can do, we know what we need to do. So it’s going to keep building, and I think we’re going to get those fast starts eventually.”

Canada will wrap up the round-robin portion of its tournament on Saturday against Belarus at 12:00 p.m. ET.