Canada eliminated at women's U-19 basketball worlds
Canadians were the only unbeaten team heading into the quarter-finals
Canada's remarkable run at the FIBA under-19 women's world basketball championships came to a heartbreaking end in the one game the team needed to win.
Nirra Fields of Lachine, Que., scored 14 points in a losing cause Friday as the Canadians were knocked out of medal contention with a 69-55 loss to Spain in the quarter-finals.
Edmonton's Michelle Plouffe added 12 points, while twin sister Katherine had seven rebounds.
"The unfortunate thing about a tournament like this is it comes down to single-elimination at some point," Canadian coach Rich Chambers said. "They're pretty disappointed but we have to regroup and try to win fifth. Our goal now is to try to go 8-1."
The Canadians had won six straight games — including an upset of the U.S. — through two preliminary rounds, taking the tournament's only unbeaten record into the quarter-finals. The undefeated streak marked a first for a Canadian team in the preliminary round of any world basketball tournament.
A victory over Spain would have meant at least an equalling of Canada's best-ever finish at the tournament, fourth two years ago in Bangkok, Thailand. Instead, the Canadians have been relegated to the classification round and can finish no better than fifth.
Still, Chambers said there was plenty for his team to be proud of.
"We set milestones that we've never done before," said the University of Victoria coach. "We'd never won our [preliminary-round] pool, we've never won the second pool overall, we hadn't beaten the United States since 1975 at this age level.
"So although it's disappointing, it's great for women's basketball in our country, and shows that we can compete on the world stage against the very best countries in the world and do very well."
Astou Ndour scored 19 points to top the Spaniards, who raced out to a 17-10 first-quarter lead and had a 35-26 advantage at halftime.
"We were just off right from the get-go, for whatever reason we didn't come out ready to play and Spain was exceptionally good, so it was a combination of us being not very good and them being very good," said Chambers.
Most of Spain's early points came on putbacks that Canada didn't block out or transition baskets after the Canadians failed to hustle back on defence, he added.
"For whatever reason, we were not sharp at all today," Chambers said.
Spain went 3-3 through the preliminary round, but two of the losses were by just two points.
"Spain could have been first in their pool," added Chambers. "They could win this whole thing."
Canada will play Saturday against Japan.