TORONTO — The Canadian U23 women’s national team defeated France 73-56 on Thursday to remain undefeated at the GLOBL JAM international basketball showcase.
With members of the senior women’s national team seated baseline at Mattamy Athletic Centre cheering them on, the U23 squad jumped out to an early 10-2 lead and didn’t look back. Canada never trailed in the game as it moved to 3-0 in the round-robin phase of the event with semi-finals scheduled for Saturday.
Aaliyah Edwards led Canada with a 20-point, 10-rebound double-double, her third in as many days. Merissah Russell and Shy Day-Wilson scored 17 points apiece in the victory.
Edwards was appreciative of the support she received from the senior team, which she played with at the Tokyo Olympics. She was the youngest member on the team’s roster.
“It’s surreal to have them all courtside watching me play,” Edwards said. “I’m used to playing with them, or watching them play. To have them watch me play, it was amazing. I felt the love from the sideline and it’s just a surreal, full-circle moment.”
France was led by a 15-point performance from Janelle Salaun and a 10-point effort from Zoe Wadoux. France finished the game shooting 36 per cent to Canada’s 34 per cent, but the home side outrebounded France 53-31, including 24-11 on the offensive glass.
Russell connected on a trio of three-pointers, and Day-Wilson scored eight of her 17 in the fourth quarter, including a three-pointer to extend Canada’s lead to 13 points with 2:10 remaining. Edwards finished 7-for-13 from the floor, while making six of seven free throws in 30 minutes of action. She finished the game as she started it, crashing the offensive glass for a putback layup and the foul, making the free throw to complete the three-point play.
That put Canada up 17 before Edwards out of the game with 1:19 remaining and the victory all but secured.
“We were all very confident,” Edwards said. “We were 2-0 [coming into the game] and we were just building off momentum. We started this game off strong which really showed how prepared we were.”
Canada led by nine after the first quarter and 13 at the half, but France came out shooting to start the third.
France scored seven straight points to trim Canada’s lead to six, before a jumper from Edwards snapped the run.
Canada then responded with a 9-0 run of its own to go back in front by 15. Yvonne Ejim demonstrated Canada’s commitment to defence as she got the block on one end and then dropped off the assist on a layup for Tara Wallack on the other end. Day-Wilson and Salaun traded three-pointers to close the quarter and set up the fourth with Canada up 12.
“It’s amazing,” Edwards said of Canada’s offensive depth. “It makes basketball so much more fun. We have a lot of threats on the court and on the bench. You’re really getting hit with the first five or the next five who are coming in. We played like a team today and it showed.”
The final frame was a grind to start with Canada shooting just 1-for-8 to open the quarter. France wasn’t much better, with the teams trading baskets before a second three-pointer from Salaun trimmed Canada’s lead to nine with 5:23 remaining.
France got within seven points after a pair of free throws from Salaun with 3:54 remaining, which was when Day-Wilson got to work. After a 6-0 run by Day-Wilson herself, Canada’s lead was back to 13.
Thursday was Mad Love night at the event, celebrating women’s basketball players at GLOBL Jam and beyond.
“It was Mad Love night and I felt the Mad Love for sure,” Edwards said. “It was a great game to compete against a very competitive and dominant French team.”
Canada will face the United States in the semifinals on Saturday at 6 p.m. ET / 3 p.m. PT on Sportsnet.
“We’re going to go home, watch some film, as tomorrow is a recovery day,” Edwards said. “I think we’re just going to lock in tomorrow and be prepared for Saturday.”