Canada have claimed the last spot at this summer’s Games after defeating Japan 71-63 on the final day of the Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Ankara.
The victory which comes on Canada’s 145th birthday as a nation is all the more special for the talented group of ladies who can now look forward to the London Olympics later this month. For Japan, they fell at the last hurdle despite a great effort in the second and fourth quarters.
They were let down by a terrible start, where Canada raced to an 11-4 lead half-way through and they went into the final period trailing 52-42.
Courtnay Pilypaitis, who has been Canada’s rock throughout these qualifiers, saved her best performance for last as she led her side with 21 points which included five three-pointers.
She added six assists to her statline as the Orleans-born guard was the true difference maker in the contest.
Japan were led by Maki Takada and Yuka Mamiya, who both hit 14 points but as the fourth quarter started, they looked exhausted as did the rest of the team. Arisa Fujiwara played 16 minutes, the least amount of minutes for the Japanese.
Canada started off the better of the two sides, as they raced out to a 21-11 lead after one, thanks to fantastic team play and off-ball movement. Japan’s guards struggle to get the ball out to the forwards resulting in turnovers and they also ended up shooting contested jumpers.
Despite that, the Asians fought back in the second, moving the ball well and scoring in transition which has been the key to their success, roared on by a colourful Japan following, they pulled it back to 37-31 at half-time.
Canada sensed that Japan were full of confidence, so the half-time buzzer couldn’t come soon enough. Shots were not dropping and they threw the ball away numerous times allowing Japan to break.
In a back-and-forth game, Canada took back control leading by ten at the end of the third as Japan looked a tired side. Despite the Candians shooting needless threes instead of keeping the ball in the remaining minutes, they held on thanks to poor finishing from the Japanese when it was needed most.