Team Canada bounced back from a loss with a 77-26 trouncing of Paraguay on Monday at the FIBA Americas Championship.
Canada (2-1) had suffered a 17-point defeat at the hands of tournament favourite Brazil on Sunday in a matchup that could end up being a preview for the championship game in Colombia.
The tournament winner automatically qualifies for the 2012 London Olympics, while three others will have a final chance next summer.
Canada has not qualified since 2000 in Sydney.
After giving up a 23-point third quarter to the Brazilian squad, a point total that matched the opponent’s entire first half, Canadian coach Allison McNeill remained positive, citing the game as an opportunity to learn something about the toughest team in the tournament.
“It was good to scout them live,” McNeill said, by conference call. “We had to do our stuff and they had to do their stuff.
“I want to see us get into more of a flow offensively. I’ve been really happy with our defence but we can’t have too many offensive lapses.”
The loss came after Canada opened the tournament with a 72-45 victory against an overwhelmed Mexican team, a win that captain Teresa Gabriel was nonetheless excited about.
“I think it was a good way to start the tournament,” Gabriel, of Mission, B.C., told the Montreal Gazette. “We came out strong and executed fairly well.
“Defensively, we were very good, holding Mexico to nine points in the first half. We shot the ball well and we all brought energy, which is something we’ve sometimes been lacking.
“It was a good first win.”
Monday’s matchup against Paraguay saw a rejuvenated Canadian squad come out sharp and focused, holding the South American team to just nine points in the second half.
GTA well represented
Kalisha Keane, of Ajax, Ont., paced Team Canada in both victories with 15 points. The 22-year-old Michigan State Spartan is the youngest player on the squad, but has been looked at to shoulder most of the offensive load.
Other Toronto-area players include Tamara Tatham and younger sister Alisha, from Brampton, Ont.
A member of the German club Halles Lions, the elder Tatham scored 22 points in an Aug. 7 loss to the Japanese team in Fukuoka, Japan and also posted a double-double in an Aug. 16 matchup against China, scoring 15 points and grabbing 10 rebounds during Canada’s tune-up phases this past summer.
Alisha currently plays in Belgium and averaged eight minutes per game during last year’s World Championship. Over all of team Canada’s outings during 2010, the young guard averaged seven minutes and two points.
A year in the making
Despite the loss to Brazil, Canada will still look to its revamped offence to try and knock off the defending tournament champions.
During last year’s World Championship tournament, McNeill made note of the fact that the team didn’t have a lot of size to rely on and that a new strategy was needed.
The coaching staff used that time to overhaul the team’s offensive playbook, shifting things in order to take advantage of the athleticism on the wings and in the backcourt.
At first, the new direction made things difficult for a unit adjusting on the fly, but McNeill was dedicated to the new strategy and believes the leadership on the club is making it happen.
“I don’t know, sometimes you get a feeling,” the coach told the Toronto Star. “We have a core that’s been together for a while, they have great chemistry, and they’re very mature.
“Mature athletes who can grab a young player and say that’s not good enough. You have to have that and I think we finally have some mature players smattered with so me really good young talent.”
Canada looks to wrap up preliminary play with a win over Jamaica on Wednesday, which would likely have them advance to the semifinals.