TORONTO – As the old basketball adage goes, you live by the three and you die by it.
This was a harsh lesson the Canadian women’s basketball team found out about Friday night.
Canada shot just 2-for-18 from three-point range Friday as it fell to Puerto Rico, 65-61 in the semifinals of the 2021 FIBA Women’s AmeriCup.
The loss will now see the tournament-favourite Canadian side forced to play for bronze on Saturday against Brazil, a team Canada barely squeaked by, 71-67, in the team’s second game of group play.
That game against Brazil before saw Canada shoot 7-of-19 from the three-point range, but made up for it with a respectable 44.6 per cent mark from the field, overall.
Against Puerto Rico on Friday, however, Canada seemingly couldn’t find the bottom of the hoop no matter where it was shooting from.
Canada finished the game shooting 35.8 per cent from the field and an abysmal 11-of-22 mark at the free-throw line.
This was a Canadian squad that came into Friday’s game as the top shooting team in the tournament, and while the process to get looks appeared to be the same as the previous five games Canada played, for some reason or the other, it seemed like there was a lid on the rim for the majority of Canada’s shots.
“We certainly had our shooting woes tonight,” said Team Canada head coach Lisa Thomaidis. “It’s unfortunate. We had a number of people just kind of go cold after a number of great performances throughout the tournament. I thought we had a lot of open looks, certainly from the free-throw line, they’re open looks, but we just couldn’t get them to go down tonight, unfortunately.”
As disappointing as the loss was, though, it won’t impact Canada very much. The team has already qualified for the 2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup and this team has its sights set on a much larger prize than an AmeriCup gold medal, besides.
Every step and, in Friday’s case, misstep Canada takes is just another building block towards preparing the team for a podium run at the Olympic Games later this summer in Tokyo.
The vast majority of Canada’s games during the AmeriCup have been blowout victories where the outcome of the game has been decided before the end of the first quarter, but playing in a tight game like the one Canada was involved in Friday was ultimately probably more educational than anything else it could experience – even in defeat.
“Any time we get a chance to play in a close game against a team that is going to be at the Olympics it’s a tremendous gift for us,” said Thomaidis. “This is exactly what we want. We need close games to evaluate where we are and what we need to continue to improve. So as disappointing as it is [right now], in the long run it’s going to be a very good thing for us.”
“It’s the ultimate teacher, right? Everyone plays a lot more attention after a loss than after a close win,” Thomaidis later added. “We’re going to learn some great lessons from this game tonight.”
Among the learnings Thomaidis and her staff will likely take from the game is that youngster Laeticia Amihere probably can’t be denied a final Olympic roster spot. The 19-year-old finished the game with 12 points and 11 rebounds, doing the brunt of her damage in the fourth trying to keep her team in it with eight points in the frame.
When the moment was calling for it, Amihere was delivering. And even though she ended up fouling out that fearlessness in an important moment for her team appeared to be just a glimpse into what looks like a brilliant future for her and Team Canada as a whole.
Had Canada shot the ball like it had normally done during the tournament then discovering something like that about Amihere likely wouldn’t have been possible.
So, yes, there’s no doubt it was a disappointing result for Team Canada, but it’s important to keep focused on the bigger picture with this team.
A single lost battle doesn’t mean the end of the war.