Argentina 92, Canada 86… For a group of players just assembled one week ago with little preparation time playing in a hostile environment, the 2017 version of Canada’s Sr. Men’s team put forth a valiant effort and were in a tremendous position to pull off what would have been a notable upset against an Argentine team with most of their feature players in action. But an inability to deal with late game full court pressure (we probably did not have enough time to put in and practice a press break with this new group), some breakdowns defensively, numerous wide open looks allowed in transition and some questionable late-game calls led to the squandering of a 10 point lead in the final 4 minutes to drop Canada to 0-2 at the 2017 FIBA Americup.
Canada stuck together through an awful start that saw Argentina make numerous open looks – Canada’s transition “d” was porous all night – as Coach Roy Rana eventually shorten the bench and our most experienced and best roster players produced like they should beginning with 6’2″ Brady Heslip, much maligned after he struggled against U.S. Virgin Islands. Heslip (team-high 24 points in 34 minutes) has clearly added counters to what once was purely a one-dimensional offensive package (virtually unlimited shooting range) and his newest skills were on display tonight as he made several tough tear-drops and lay-ups in traffic and off the dribble off curls. He also made what might have been the game winning shot, a long three from the top of the bowl with just 50 seconds remaining to give Canada a 3 point lead. Unfortunately, with Canada up 1 and just seconds remaining, Heslip missed 1 of 2 free throws, allowing Argy to tie it on a lay-up with 3 seconds left to get to OT.
In the OT, Heslip knocked down another three in transition to give Canada an early 5 point lead but soon after 6’4″ Olivier Hanlan, who was another solid producer with 16 points on 3-5 threes in 25 minutes and several aggressive, confident takes to the rim, was whistled for his fifth foul on a questionable push-off call in a game that became almost impossible to ref with the flopping, grabbing and physical play on the ball. Argy guard Fabio Campazzo took over in the extra frame with 23 points including a fall-away three with just 3 seconds left in the OT to give Argy what turned out to be an insurmountable advantage.
The game was played at a qualification-like intensity before a packed house of locals in a small, tight gym that was humid and caused several delays to keep the floor dry. In other words, a very hostile environment through which Canada muscled their way through despite special situations that didn’t go our way that simply could not be worked on in detail with just a handful of practices. Given the circumstances, we have much to be proud of with Coach Rana, staff and players.
6’11” Andrew Nicholson was spectacular on the glass with 18 rebounds and scored 12 points in 38 minutes, helping to rescue Canada from an early 13 point deficit when the natives were sensing a blow-out. Nicholson shot just 5-14 from the field with some tough luck around the rim including getting two obvious chops to the arm on a lay-up attempt to tie it in the final minute of OT. Nicholson continues to show he is a big-time scorer and rebounder at this level for Canada; expect him to be a better finisher tomorrow.
Hanlan has improved his body and was very good off the dribble attacking the lane tonight as well as making key 3’s from the baseline. 6’4″ Xavier Rathan-Mayes (17 points, 5 assists in 29 minutes) has shown he has a bright future with the Sr. team – likely in a supporting role when (notice “when” not “if”) our NBA guys play. He was good off-the-bounce getting himself to comfortable places on the floor and made Argentina pay off the dribble when they switched the ball screen. 6’6″ Dyshawn Pierre did many of the little things including 9 boards (3 offensive) in 34 minutes but remains a work-in-progress as an offensive threat.
Canada shot just 7-23 from 3 but Heslip and Hanlan combined to go 6 for 11 and we out rebounded the home side 48-40 with 9 “o” boards most of which were very helpful when coming back from 14 point second quarter deficit.
Argentina came out on fire but as predicted in a timeout by Coach Rana, fatigue set in and, despite numerous open looks against a transition “d” that needs mucho work, Argentina began missing shots (12-38 3’s but only 5 makes in the final 32 minutes after 7 3’s in the first 13 minutes) and Nicholson went to work with a big 3 and some inside scores to give Canada the lead late in the second.
6’9″ Gabby Deck, a 22 year old future star, showed he has high European or even NBA potential down the road with an array of takes to the rim, aggressive work on the glass and a strong perimeter game; he had 20 points and 9 boards while 6’6″ Patricio Garino, a graduate of NCAA D1 George Washington U in 2016 who played his high school basketball at Montverde Academy (same school as touted Canadian youngsters R.J. Barrett and Andrew Nemhardt) had 20 points and is another international player to keep an eye on.
Argentina moves to 2-0 in Group B play and Canada needs Venezuela to defeat U.S. Virgin Islands in the second game to have any hope of advancing to the semi-final round. Venezuela (0-1) lost to the host Argys 67-62 on Monday.