Sports

Canada improves to 2-0 at FIBA Americas

Mission, B.C., natives Kim Smith and Teresa Gabriele combined for 24 points as the Canadians took a step closer to booking a ticket to the world basketball championships on Thursday with a 70-57 victory over Puerto Rico.

Mission, B.C., natives Kim Smith and Teresa Gabriele combined for 24 points as the Canadians took a step closer to booking a ticket to the world basketball championships on Thursday with a 70-57 victory over Puerto Rico.

Gabriele scored 13 points in 30 minutes to lead the Canadians, who improved to 2-0 at the FIBA Americas women's tournament in Cuiaba, Brazil. Chelsea Aubry of Kitchener, Ont., added 12, while Smith finished with 11 points in a game-high 34 minutes.

A loss to the Puerto Ricans would have left Canada needing a win over world No. 4 Brazil on Friday to reach the semifinals. That was a scenario head coach Allison McNeill didn't want to face.

"You lose that one, you have to beat Brazil at home, and that's a tough task," said McNeill. "This is the one we really wanted.

"They both knew they'd be playing a lot in that game."

Despite strong games from Smith and Gabriele, Canada still found itself in a battle with Puerto Rico until midway through the third quarter. Aubry hit a short jumper to give the Canadians a one-point lead, sparking a 26-5 run over the next nine minutes that turned a close game into a rout.

Tamara Tatham of Brampton, Ont., grabbed seven rebounds to go with nine points, while Natalie Achonwa had all nine of her points during Canada's decisive run. Kaela Chapdelaine of Okotoks, Alta., finished with six assists.

Cynthia Valentin had 18 points to top Puerto Rico.

Turnovers were an area of concern for the Canadians for a second straight day. Canada turned the ball over 22 times against Puerto Rico, and have allowed 39 turnovers in two games.

McNeill attributed some of the miscues to the aggressive style of play employed by South and Central American teams.

The Canadians' victory comes on the heels of their 103-37 rout of the Dominican Republic in their tournament opener Wednesday.

The win guarantees Canada a top-two spot in Group A.

The semifinal winners will automatically qualify for next year's world championships in the Czech Republic, while the losing teams will face off for the third and final berth.

With Friday's game against Brazil having little bearing on the standings, McNeill said she would give her veteran players a chance to rest, while calling on the youngsters to carry the load.