In what was a neck-to-neck fourth quarter, the Canadian national basketball team edged the New Zealand Tall Blacks national basketball team, 78-72, to advance to the Finals of the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament at the Mall of Asia Arena in Manila, Philippines.
After a fourth quarter that saw four deadlocks and four lead changes, a Melvin Ejim putback and-one was all that was needed for the Canadians to get over the hump. After a Thomas Ambercombie dunk tied the game for the final time at 71-all with three minutes to go, two free throws from Tristan Thompson and one from Khem Birch gave Canada the lead but still gave New Zealand a chance as it was still a one-possession game with 1:56 to go.
The Tall Blacks couldn’t capitalize, however, as two turnovers and one miss from New Zealand set the table for the Ejim layup and foul after a Cory Joseph miss.
“Guys dug dip in the fourth quarter, got stops and that’s what changed the game,” said Canada and Cavaliers big man Thompson of the turnovers and misses by New Zealand.
“I just love the way our guys keep fighting. We keep defending, we keep forcing tough shots, we keep teams to shoot a low-percentage against us and that gives us a chance until we start hitting shots.” said Canada head coach Jay Triano.
Cory Joseph, like all tournament long, led the Canadians with 23 points, five rebounds and four assists. Thompson added a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds while Ejim chipped in with 13 points and seven rebounds for Canada who will face France in the final game for the Rio Olympics berth.
“We came this far and we came here to win.” Thompson said.
Canada: Joseph 20, Thompson 13, Ejim 13, Bennett 9, Birch 6, P. Scrubb 6, T. Scrubb 5, Ennis 4, Heslip 2.
New Zealand: C. Webster 21, Abercrombie 16, T. Webster 15, Vukona 6, Loe 6, Ili 5, Fotu 3, Barlett 0, Anthony 0, Ngatai 0.