Once again overcoming sluggish perimeter shooting and inconsistent ball screen “d” against a hot-shooting opponent, Canada produced a character 78-72 victory over New Zealand to advance to the championship game of the Manila OQT. Once again, 6’2″ Cory Joseph produced a heroic effort, especially on the offensive end with several knifing takes to the rim at key points, finishing with a game-high 23 points, adding 5 rebounds and 4 assists. Joseph simply has been the main reason why Canada has reached the championship game, logging big minutes, making the majority of decisions and even matching up defensively with a big (Tall Blacks burly Mika Vukona) when Canada went small. 6’7″ Melvin Ejim was clearly also instrumental in today’s win, coming off the bench for 5 immediate points in the first quarter when Canada started sluggishly and then capping another workmanlike effort with the game-clinching offensive rebound, put-back “and 1″ in the final minute to seal the deal. Ejim is perfect wing forward in the international game, not backing down from any physical play and athletic enough to guard multiple positions. His momentum-turning block on Thomas Abercrombie’s apparent breakaway dunk epitomized his effort and contribution. Canada won despite another unconvincing 4 for 20 effort from downtown as both 6’3″ Phil Scrubb and 6’2″ Brady Heslip, Canada’s two main 3 point shooters in the pre-tournament games, have suddenly gone cold. Canada also struggled from the free throw line going 14 for 25 – at one point Canada was just 8 for 17 from the stripe. Ball screen defense continues to be an area of concern for Canada, which gave up 25 points in the first quarter. Canada struggled guarding both Tai Webster (15 points) and older brother Corey Webster (21 points) both straight up guarding the ball and with the ball screen. New Zealand shot 11 for 27 from 3. 6’7″ Anthony Bennett displayed some fine offensive finishes however it was not a coincidence that Canada gave up just 47 points in the final 3 quarters while Bennett played sparingly. 6’9″ Khem Birch, while playing only 10 minutes, was effective as a rim protector and finisher. 6’7″ Thomas Scrubb was only average defensively for Canada, holding down Abercrombie in the first half before being put on Corey Webster in the second half to mixed results. Thomas Scrubb, after making his first 3, struggled with his perimeter shooting and overall finishing around the rim while brother Phil missed at least two wide open looks that at this level on this stage have to go down if he is to garner more minutes or a higher profile. 6’11” Tristan Thompson had another strong effort with an important late put-back “and 1″; he continues to contribute in the areas he thrives in, on the glass (10 boards, 5 offensive) and around the rim (13 points). Thompson never needs to have plays run for him, presents an imposing physical paint-area presence at both ends and continues to play hard no matter what the circumstance – testaments to his loyalty and unselfishness. 6’2” Tyler Ennis continues to struggle offensively with his shooting – he was 0 for 3 from the line today and is 6 for 13 from the stripe over the first 3 games and has missed the only 3 point shot he has taken in the tournament. He did have a couple of strong finishes in transition today however teams have scouted the fact that his perimeter shooting is questionable and defensively he gave up some blow bys. Canada continues to scrap and with their likely opponent France, let’s hope that our shooters find the range tomorrow. Go Canada !