The Canadian men’s basketball team have punched their ticket to next summer’s Olympic Games in Paris.
Canada defeated Spain 88-85 in a FIBA World Cup match on Sunday in Jakarta to advance to the quarterfinals of that tournament against Slovenia on Wednesday.
That win, combined with losses by Brazil, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, clinched a FIBA Americas spot at the Olympics for Canada.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was the star of the show with 30 points, including going 14-of-16 at the free-throw line, to help send Canada through to a quarterfinal matchup with Slovenia on Wednesday.
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“We’re a part of history,” said Gilgeous-Alexander. “It’s something that’s almost indescribable. So many people along the way have put in so much work for this program and having the opportunity to do so, we want to thank them and also represent them when we go, and in the rest of this tournament [as well].”
Dillon Brooks played solid defence and had 24 points for Canada (4-1), while Gilgeous-Alexander added seven assists and four rebounds.
“We just dug deep,” said RJ Barrett, who added 16 points. “Dillon was huge, Shai iced the game, made all the free throws. We just dug deep, man. We hit some adversity, down 12 to start the fourth quarter and we just stayed together.”
Canada will have to handle superstar Luka Doncic in the quarterfinals, as Slovenia (4-1) dropped its game on Sunday against Germany 100-71 to take second-place in Group K.
The winner of Wednesday’s game will face the victor of Tuesday’s Lithuania (5-0) vs. Serbia (4-1) game in the semifinals on Friday.
The Quarter-Finals are set 🍿<a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/FIBAWC?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#FIBAWC</a> <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/WinForAll?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#WinForAll</a> <a href=”https://t.co/ePfcfQuZoN”>pic.twitter.com/ePfcfQuZoN</a>
On the other side of the bracket, Italy (4-1) will take on the United States (4-1) on Tuesday, and Germany (5-0) will play Latvia (4-1) on Wednesday.
The final is set for Sunday.
Trailing 78-74 with 1:51 left in the game, Gilgeous-Alexander drove to the net for a layup and drew a foul. He sank the free throw for a three-point play to pull Canada to within one with 1:51 to go.
Hernangomez was fouled at the other end of the floor and he hit both free throws to make it 80-77.
Brooks drilled a three-pointer on the next possession to tie it up with 1:12 left to play.
He then planted his feet and forced Alex Abrines out of bounds for a Spanish turnover. That put the ball in Gilgeous-Alexander’s hands, who made a step-back jumper for a two-point lead with 43.5 seconds to go.
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A Spanish shot was tipped away, with Lu Dort catching the ball and handing it off to Gilgeous-Alexander. He was quickly fouled, sending him to the line for two free throws.
Canadian fans chanted “M-V-P!” as he made both of them for a four-point lead.
After a timeout, Juan Nunez made a hook shot to help Spain close within two points.
Aldama made a three-pointer to make it a one-point game, and Gilgeous-Alexander was triple-teamed on the next inbound for a quick foul, again sending him to the free-throw line.
Once more, Gilgeous-Alexander made both free-throws and then Spain was unable to get off a viable shot with less than four seconds on the clock.
“It was a really, really good game,” said Gilgeous-Alexander. “Really high-level basketball. It was a lot of adversity. They played a really well-rounded game from start to finish.”
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