TORONTO—Guard Brady Heslip drained four three-pointers and scored a game-high 18 points as Canada topped Jamaica 81-72 in the first of a two-game exhibition set at the Mattamy Athletic Centre.
Forward Levon Kendall netted 16 points and forward Jevohn Shepherd chipped in with 12 points and six rebounds for the Canadian squad in front of approximately 2,000 spectators at the building formerly known as Maple Leaf Gardens.
Centre Adrian Uter scored 16 points, Samardo Samuels dropped in 15, and Scott Akeem added 10 to pace Jamaica.
Canada held a five-point advantage heading into the fourth quarter and put the game away late in the frame when Heslip drained a long jumper and sank a shot from three-point range to stretch the lead to 12 points with less than two minutes left.
Team Canada head coach Jay Triano was not surprised by the confidence that Heslip. who attends Baylor University in Texas, showed with his shooting touch.
“I’ve known him his whole life and he has never lacked confidence, so that’s a great thing,” said Triano.
“I want him to shoot the basketball when he gets open and it was the same thing (in previous competitions) — we’re in tight games and he’ll come down and hit three in a row and break a game open and that’s what he did tonight.”
Heslip was able to take advantage of the spacing on the court to get his offensive game going.
“My teammates we’re finding me and then they started setting great screens that freed me up for shots,” said Heslip. “And once I hit a couple, I just kept letting them go.”
Kendall converted a three-point play in the lane to extend Canada’s lead to 65-57 and then guard Junior Cadougan scored to give Canada its first double digit lead midway through the fourth quarter.
Samuels, with NBA experience, brought an edginess to the game that was a source of frustration for Canada all night.
As the players ran back down the court after Uter scored a bucket to cut Canada’s lead to 53-51, Samuels drew a technical foul when he pushed forward Andrew Nicholson to the floor. Nicholson approached Samuels, but they were quickly separated.
In another sequence, Tristan Thompson picked up a technical foul in reaction to Samuels’ antics.
Thompson responded with a strong take to the basket that drew applause from the crowd but laughter from Samuels.
Jamaican head coach James Sam Vincent regards Samuels as a leader and appreciates the energy he brings to the court.
“He plays extremely hard and we are an aggressive basketball team and we will always stay aggressive,” said Vincent.
“We are preparing for a tournament (the FIBA Americas Championship) with players and teams that are extremely aggressive, so we just have to keep doing what we’re doing and get better at it.”
Overall, Vincent thinks highly of what Samuels, who cut the lead to five points with under four minutes to play , brings to the team.
“Samardo is a very talent basketball player, but he’s a pro and he is used to getting pro calls.”
Thompson opened the third quarter with a dunk as he shook off the defender with a pump fake near the rim.
A reverse dunk by Patrick Ewing, Jr. drew gasps from the crowd as Jamaica cut Canada’s lead to 58-57.
But a pair a free throws by Kendall and a driving basket by Cadougan created some breathing room for Canada as they carried a 62-57 lead into the final frame.
Canada’s Nicholson, entering his second season with the Orlando Magic, put his offensive arsenal on display in the second quarter as he converted a post move and knocked down a trio of jumpers.
The intensity picked up in late in the second quarter with Samuels committing an aggressive foul and then jawing at players as Jamaica pulled within one.
But Heslip settled things down by draining a three-point basket to give Canada a 42-38 edge.
Canada led 44-42 at halftime.
Shepherd of Canada tied the score at two with a lay-up nearly three minutes into the first frame, but from there the offence picked up for both teams.
Andy Rautins found Thompson for a dunk as he was gliding through the lane.
Samuels responded for Jamaica with a vicious dunk to keep the score close.
Cadougan then connected with Kendall for an alley-oop to the delight of a boisterous crowd as Canada gained a 22-20 advantage.
Canada stretched their lead to 29-21 at the end of the first quarter with the help of a buzzer-beating three-pointer by Kendall.
Notes: In FIBA competitions the games are divided into four 10-minute quarters … Joel Anthony, a two-time NBA champion with the Miami Heat, was not on the active roster for Thursday night’s game, but he sat on the bench in warm-up gear … Team Canada is in Toronto for training camp leading up to the 2013 FIBA Americas Championship which will take place from August 30 to September 11 in Venezuela … Jamaica will also compete in the tournament … Anthony Bennet, selected first overall in the NBA draft in June is recovering from an injury and will not suit up for Canada this summer.