Canada falls to Australia in women's basketball World Cup bronze medal match
Nurse leads Canadian squad with 19 points; Canada grabs its best finish in 36 years
Canada's women's basketball team's hopes of claiming its first World Cup medal since 1986 fell short on Saturday, after a 95-65 loss to hosts Australia in the bronze medal match.
Still, the Canadian squad (4-3) advanced further than they had in any World Cup in 36 years, when the country earned bronze.
WNBA star Kia Nurse of Hamilton, Ont., kept Canada in the game with 19 points in the first half as Australia led 51-43 at the break. She didn't score in the second half.
"Obviously, it didn't end the way that we wanted it to, but I'm proud of this team," said Nurse. "We read articles and know that no one thought we'd make it out of our pool and here we are. I think it's a tough way to end a tournament, but [we look at this like] building blocks."
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Nirra Fields and Natalie Achonwa also reached double digits for Canada, adding 12 and 10 points, respectively.
Australia's Lauren Jackson admitted she couldn't have imagined a better ending to her Hall of Fame career.
"I could have never dreamed of this," said Jackson, who scored 30 points to lead the Opals. "I can't imagine it. I can't actually articulate how I feel right now. It's a dream come true. The fact that it's over, there's nothing bittersweet. It's so, so special and I've the pleasure doing it here. It's been perfect."
It was a throwback performance for the 41-year-old mom, who came back to the Opals after retiring in 2016 because of injuries. Jackson said on social media Saturday that this would be her final game for Australia and that she was "lucky to have this opportunity to represent Australia and also say goodbye. I didn't get that chance all those years ago."
She played in 43 World Cup games in her career, matching Brazil's Janeth Arcain for most all-time. Jackson won three bronze medals and led the Opals to their lone gold in 2006.
Australia (6-2) was coming off a disappointing last-minute loss to China in the medal round. After a sluggish start, Jackson got the team going scoring nine points in the opening 20 minutes.
Jackson then took over scoring 12 of her points in the third quarter when Australia extended the lead to 71-54. Jackson, who had been used sparingly throughout most of the tournament, broke out an array of post moves that were reminiscent of her dominant MVP seasons in the WNBA playing for Seattle.
Her three-point play with 1:07 left in the third gave Australia a 17-point advantage — its biggest lead of the game to that point.
Other side of fairy-tale ending
"One of the best in the world," Nurse said about Jackson.
"You know those tournaments where they have fairy-tale endings and this one had to be a fairy-tale ending, but you're on the other side of it? All credit to her, and continuing to get herself back to where she wanted to be to play in this tournament."
Nurse, who returned to the court after 11-month following an ACL surgery, shot 6-for-13 from the floor.
"I was grateful to have the opportunity," Nurse said. "Just being able to be out there again is absolutely incredible and I'm so grateful to everybody that has helped me in that journey."
Canada's head coach Víctor LaPeña praised Australia for its "hard mentality" and its "very tough and experienced" play.
"[They] played with experience to know after a tough loss yesterday that today was an amazing opportunity for them in their country to win a bronze medal," said LaPeña. "I'm not sad or angry with my players. Totally opposite of that. They did their best."
Australia coach Sandy Brondello, who played with Jackson on the national team, put Jackson back in with just under 6 minutes left and took her out to a rousing ovation with 2:22 remaining as she hit two free throws to end her night. Jackson received hugs from her teammates, who then lifted her up once the final buzzer.
"It was a fairytale ending and I couldn't be more happy for her," Brondello said.
These two teams met in pool play with Australia coming away with a 75-72 win that helped them earn the top seed in the group.
Americans top China to win 4th straight gold
A'ja Wilson scored 19 points, Kelsey Plum added 17 and the United States beat China 83-61 on Saturday to win its fourth consecutive gold medal at the women's basketball World Cup.
This was one of the most dominant teams in the Americans' storied history in the World Cup that now has won 11 gold medals. They now have won four straight gold medals for the first-time ever. This was also the biggest win in a gold-medal game, surpassing the 20-point wins that the Americans had done twice.
"It feels great," said Wilson, who was selected as the tournament's MVP. "We came here on a mission, we got it. We got gold. Now we're going home with some hardware. It feels great to us. Australia was great to us. I didn't see any kangaroos, but it's OK because we are leaving with a gold."
𝗕𝗜𝗚 𝗚𝗔𝗠𝗘 𝗣𝗟𝗔𝗬𝗘𝗥<br><br>Finals MVP is a lifestyle for Chelsea Gray 🌟<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/FIBAWWC?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#FIBAWWC</a> x <a href="https://twitter.com/TCL_Global?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@TCL_Global</a> <a href="https://t.co/iRRe7LXWUu">pic.twitter.com/iRRe7LXWUu</a>—@FIBAWWC
As they've done all tournament, the Americans did it on both ends of the court, playing stellar defence as well as using a high-powered offence.
The U.S. (8-0) finished the World Cup averaging 98.8 points — just short of the mark held by the 1994 team that averaged 99.1. They won by an average of 40.8 points, topping the mark held by the 2010 team.
The game was a sellout with nearly 16,000 fans — the biggest crowd to attend a women's World Cup game since the inaugural tournament in 1953 in Chile.
With files from The Associated Press