The Canadian senior women’s basketball team fielded a full lineup in a competitive game for the first time since February 2020 early Monday morning in their Olympic opener, and the rust showed in a 72-68 loss to 2016 Olympic bronze medalists Serbia.
Team Canada entered the Tokyo Olympics with a roster that they feel good about, but went up against a tough Serbian side that is always competitive on the world stage. The Canadians got off to a slow start, and the deficit turned out to be insurmountable despite a promising push in the third quarter.
Canada was led offensively by guard Nirra Fields, who exploded with 19 points on 8/14 shooting off of the bench. Kia Nurse pitched in with 16 points and 6 rebounds, albeit on a 6/18 shooting clip and 1/5 from deep. Shay Colley contributed with 12 points but was forced to leave the game in the third quarter with a shoulder injury, which will be closely monitored heading into the next game of the tournament. Canada’s starting five was outscored heavily by Serbia’s, as Canada had three players in the starting unit finish in single digits in scoring, with Natalie Achonwa, who was returning from injury, not registering a point but adding a team-leading 5 assists.
Serbia had a score-by-committee approach on offence in the game, with 5 players in double-digits and another with 9. Sonja Vasic led the way with 16 points, 3 rebounds and 3 assists on 6/10 shooting. Serbia outrebounded the Canadians on the defensive glass 28-19, and were able to get second chance opportunities on offence that proved to be crucial.
The game belonged to Serbia in the first half, who looked the more organized and prepared of the two teams, which can be expected considering the long layoff in time for the Canadian program. The Serbians led 36-28 at the half and seemed to be in complete control, until the Canadians stormed back in the third frame and tied the game at 45-45 going into the fourth quarter. Canada continued to keep things close throughout most of the fourth, but an onslaught of quick three-pointers with 4 minutes to go gave Serbia control. Canada managed to narrow the deficit back down to 1 with 13 seconds to play, but fell short in the end in a game that truly could have gone either way down the stretch.
The loss puts Canada at the bottom of Group A after one game, with Spain and Serbia occupying the top 2 spots, and South Korea sitting just above them in third. Canada will play against the three other teams in the group once, and their seed in the group will determine if they qualify for the knockout stages, which begin in the quarterfinals. 8 out of the 12 teams in the tournament will qualify for the quarterfinals, with the top 2 teams in each group automatically qualifying, and the two best third place finishers moving on as well.
With over half the teams involved moving on, Canada still has a decent chance to advance despite the loss, but will need to win at least one of their next two games and keep the other close in order to maintain a respectable point differential.
Canada’s next two opponents won’t be any easier, with top contenders Spain and a very tricky South Korean team still on the horizon. The consensus is that Spain will be the harder team to beat, and so Canada’s next game against South Korea will be considered a must-win if they hope to make it out of the group stage.
That do-or-die matchup will take place on Thursday for the Canadians, while Serbia will be back in action the same day against the other Group A winners Spain to see who can obtain a stranglehold on the group.
Fields – 19 PTS 4 REB 3 AST
Nurse – 16 PTS 6 REB 4 AST
Colley – 12 PTS 1 REB 1 AST
Vasic – 16 PTS 3 REB 3 AST
Anderson – 12 PTS 5 REB 3 AST
Dabovic – 11 PTS 6 REB 5 AST
CAN VS. SERBIA BOX SCORE