Canada nips pesky New Zealand, makes FIBA OQT final | Inquirer Sports

Canada nips pesky New Zealand, makes FIBA OQT final

By: - Reporter / @MarkGiongcoINQ
/ 08:29 PM July 09, 2016

Canada vs Turkey in a FIBA OQT Manila. Photo by Tristan Tamayo/INQUIRER.net

Canada vs Turkey in a FIBA OQT Manila game at Mall of Asia. Photo by Tristan Tamayo/INQUIRER.net

Canada withstood another gutsy showing from New Zealand, 78-72, to make the finals of the Fiba Olympic qualifying tournament in Manila at Mall of Asia Arena.

The Canadians outscored the Kiwis, 9-3, in the last four minutes to remain undefeated in the tournament.

Cory Joseph had 20 points as he went against New Zealand’s Corey Webster in a virtual shootout, but it was Melvin Ejim who played hero for Canada in the final minute.

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Ejim forced a defensive stop on Webster, who led the Tall Blacks with a game-high 21 points, before converting a three-point play that pushed the lead to 77-71 with only 20.6 seconds left and sealed the Canadians’ slot in the championship round.

“Melvin is our energy guy and we kinda trust him down the stretch. He’s a fierce competitor on the glass and he’s a fierce competitor defensively and was extremely valuable to us tonight,” said Canada head coach Jay Triano.

The Tall Blacks stayed in the game despite losing their star big man Isaac Fotu to an early injury. An uncontested dunk by Thomas Abercrombie knotted the game for the eighth time before Tristan Thompson’s free throws put Canada ahead for good, 73-71, with 3:19 remaining.

“First of all you gotta give New Zealand a lot of credit. They’re a well-coached team, coach. They fought until the end, but for us, we dug deep and in the fourth quarter we got stops that’s what changed the game,” said Thompson, who helped the Cleveland Cavaliers win their first NBA championship last month.

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The tireless Cleveland Cavaliers center notched a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds while doing the dirty work and providing hustle from the opening tip.

“For me, it’s just about coming here and bring the energy. With the team, everyone’s got to make sacrifices and identify their role,” said the 25-year-old Thompson.

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“Coach Jay said that on day one and for me, it’s just to compete every night and play hard. I’m not worried about the stats, for me it’s competing and doing whatever it takes to win because winning trumps everything.”

Tai Webster also posted a double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds.

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Canada takes on the winner between France and Turkey on Sunday.

TAGS: Canada, New Zealand, tournament, Turkey

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