Canada’s Sr. Men’s team blew a 14 point third-quarter lead but 6’6″ Melvin Ejim knocked in a pair of consecutive scores with about 5 minutes remaining in the fourth to give Canada the lead for good in a character 97-91 win over Puerto Rico in Biella, Italy as their pre-OQT tour of Europe ended. Canada finishes their friendlies schedule at 4-1 and now flies east (through Istanbul, Turkey) to Manila for the OQT which begins this coming Tuesday, July 5th vs. Turkey. The Puerto Ricans, coming off a win in the Central America championship over the weekend, next meet Italy in a friendly before their respective Olympic qualifying tournament begins next week in Milan. Canada shot a sizzling 13 for 26 from the 3 point line for the game and appeared to have things well in control, leading 75-61 in the third, using a 46-30 run after the first quarter. But NBA veteran Carlos Arroyo began getting to the rim and his basket with 5:24 remaining in the fourth put Puerto Rico up 80-79, capping a 12-2 run.
But Ejim (22 points, 13 rebounds including 3 3’s) took over giving Canada the lead for good with his pair of clutch hoops. Puerto Rico made one final run as J.J. Barea (12 points) knocked down and 3 and was fouled in the act and with the ensuing free throw drew his team to within 1 at 92-91 with under a minute to play. But 6’2″ Cory Joseph nailed a bucket and, after a Puerto Rican turnover, 6’2″ Brady Heslip (20 points) knocked down his fourth triple of the game that sealed the Canadian victory. 6’2″ Phil Scrubb also had 3 3’s in the game for Canada, which also dominated in second-chance points 18-6. 6’8″ Renaldo Balkman added 16 points for Puerto Rico, including 8 in the first-quarter after which Canada trailed 31-29. Canada cleaned things up on the defensive end through the middle part of the game, allowing only 30 points in a 17 minute stretch bridging the second and third quarters.