RIO DE JANEIRO (August 8, 2016) – For the first time ever Canada is 2-0 at the Olympic women’s basketball tournament, after a comeback for the ages in a 71-67 victory over Serbia at Youth Arena on Monday.
Kia Nurse came off the bench to score 25 points for Canada, which rallied from an 18-point deficit early in the third quarter to remain unbeaten at the Rio Games and maintain a share of first place in the Group B standings.
“It was just a complete team effort,” says Nurse. “After the first half we said, ‘Let’s get it done on the defensive end’ and that’s what we did. We came down with some boards, got out in transition and made them run and executed extremely well in the second half.”
Canada’s starting lineup included Miah-Marie Langlois, Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe, Kim Gaucher, Tamara Tatham and Miranda Aym. Click here for full team roster.
Ayim, Gaucher and Nirra Fields all contributed eight points for Canada, while Raincock-Ekunwe grabbed nine rebounds with five coming off the offensive glass, including a clutch put-back in the final minute. Jelena Milovanovic paced Serbia with 19 points. For game boxscore click here.
Canada cranked up its defensive pressure in the second half, holding Serbia to just 15 points over the final 15:27. The Serbians committed 17 turnovers in the game, while Canada had 10 steals.
The pressure was huge,” says Team Canada head coach Lisa Thomaidis. “Being able to bring in Nirra off the bench to cause some problems, Nayo was tremendous, and Kia had a huge effort tonight. It was amazing what she was able to do, she was a game-changer and she wanted the ball when the game was close and caused a lot of turnovers with her pressure.”
Ayim and Raincock-Ekunwe each scored four early points as Canada charged out to an 8-1 lead before the game was three minutes old. Serbia responded with a 20-10 run before Kia Nurse hit a three-pointer, her second of the quarter, with four seconds remaining to tie the the game 21-21 heading into the second period.
After a free-throw by Gaucher made the score 30-28 in favour of the Serbians midway through the second quarter, Serbia scored 10 of the next 12 points to take a double-digit lead. A basket by Tatham just before the halftime buzzer reduced Serbia’s lead to 40-32 at the break.
Serbia surged ahead 52-34 in the third quarter, before Canada reeled off an 11-0 run during which Nurse poured in seven points. Serbia responded with five unanswered points and held a 57-45 advantage after three quarters.
Canada opened the the fourth quarter on an 11-0 run. With 2:46 remaining, Team Canada took its first lead since the game’s opening moments, as Gaucher knocked a down corner three-pointer to make the score 63-61 and set the stage for a dramatic finish.
There were four lead changes in the final two minutes, the last coming with just 48 seconds to play, when Raincock-Ekunwe converted a three-point play to put Canada in front 68-67. Langlois then hit a dagger three-pointer in the dying seconds to secure victory.