July 3rd, 2021 Victoria, BC (ISN) – The Canadian Men’s Basketball’s dreams of returning to the Olympics were crushed yesterday in a thrilling, yet heart breaking, 103-101 OT semi-final loss to the Czech Republic in Olympic qualifying action Saturday afternoon at Save-on- Foods Arena in Victoria, BC.
Canada’s RJ Barret would lead the Canadian scoring with 23 points, followed by teammates Andrew Wiggins (22 points) and Nickeil Alexander-Walker (21 points). Blake Schilb, of the Czech Repbubilc, would have a huge game for his team, leading all scorers with 31 points to advance to the finals Sunday afternoon against Greece.
The Canadian team, considered by most as the favorite in the tournament to advance met stiff competition from the Czech’s from the opening tip off. leading in the game during regulation time and down by as many as 13 points in the third quarter, Canada would make it tough on themselves shooting a dismal 24 percent from behind the arc compared to the Czech’s 46 percent.
Canada would fight back in the fourth quarter, down by ten points early in the final frame, they would mount a comeback, leading by as many as five points with only two and a half minutes remaining. The Czech’s would retake the lead, using their big men Patrik Auda and Ondrej Balvin to take a seemingly unrecoverable, nine point lead with forty-four seconds remaining.
In an unbelievable show of grit and determination, Canada would score the final nine points in regulation time on the back’s of Barrettt, Wiggins and Alexander-Walker. Barret would electrify the Canadian crowd on hand, taking the ball the length of the court to score a three-pointer to make it a six-point Czech lead. Alexander-Walker would steal ball on a bad pass from Schilb. Canada’s Wiggins, running the fast break, would keep the ball himself to score to cut the deficit to four points with seventeen seconds remaining. After a foul drawn by Wiggins would result in a made free throw Alexander-Walker would step in front of the Czech pass again, stealing the ball from Jaromir Bohacik, would pass to an open Wiggins for the shot behind the arc to tie the game 94-94 and force overtime, bringing the partisan crowd to their feet.
In overtime, Canada would continue the offensive pressure. Alexander-Walker would score Canada’s next five points out of the break to take a 99-94 lead, however Czech’s big men were up to the task. Turning away Canada’s efforts inside the paint, and scoring from the free throw line at the opposite end to pull near, Czech’s Blake Schilb would put his team ahead 101-99 with a corner three-ball. Wiggins would score with eleven seconds remaining to knot the game once again, however Czech captain Tomas Satoransky would fine an open path to the hoop to take the lead.
Canada would get a final good look at the hoop win one second remaining after a timeout by Head Coach Nick Nurse. RJ Barrett would find an open Trey Lyles from a side out pass but the shot would fall short, advancing the Czech Republic to the Sunday final against a surging Greek team.
Canada’s men’s team has not played in an Olympic Games since Steve Nash led them in 2000.
In the loss, Head Coach Nick Nurse would complement his team’s play in the game and the tournament. “ I really appreciate the guys who committed and their hard work, and they prepared. It was kind of one of those days where the ball didn’t go in as much as it needed to.”
When asked if he will be back with the team given the opportunity, Nurse was non-committal but appreciative of Canadian fans and Canadian Basketball. “We will do our debrief and see where we are going. I love basketball and I love Canada basketball. I’m just trying to help this team as good as it can be. There is some building to be done, but this is a great learning experience. I think the future is bright ( for Canadian basketball ) .”