France ends Canada’s men’s Basketball Team’s Bid to Qualify for Olympics
Canada’s men’s basketball Olympic drought will stretch to at least 20 years thanks to an 83-74 loss to France on Sunday in Manila.
The patriotic group that showed up when called upon – sadly, too much of a rarity in this country – fought tooth and nail against a very good and vastly more experienced French side, but faltered down the stretch and saw its flickering Rio dream extinguished.
Only one spot was available from this six-team last-chance qualifier, one of three held this week. Serbia and Croatia won the other two spots.
France’s experience loomed large, with superstar guard Tony Parker making key plays down the stretch, along with Euroleague MVP Nando De Colo, with some help from Nic Batum and Boris Diaw.
Canada last qualified in Sydney in 2000, where it lost an elimination game to France that thwarted a potential medal bid.
Canada should never have been in this position after steamrolling the field at the FIBA Americas in Mexico City last September. But that group laid an egg against a weak Venezuela side in another winner-to-Rio contest, which forced a trip to the Philippines for a last-chance tournament and an inevitable meeting with France, ranked No. 5 in the world.
Still, Canada gave France a battle. Melvin Ejim was brilliant, contributing 19 points including 4 of 4 on three-pointers. Cory Joseph had a stellar first half and Tristan Thompson did a nice job on the boards with seven rebounds, including four on offence.
Joseph finished with 20 points and six assists but had seven turnovers.
Diaw’s three-pointer just before the buzzer broke a tie going into halftime and France built the lead up to 10 points, but Canada rallied to get it down to five entering the fourth.
But once again, Canada did not have enough offensive options and the team never got untracked offensively at this tournament, while France was able to execute, particularly a crucial Parker three over his long-time San Antonio backup Joseph with about two minutes remaining. Parker finished with a game-high 26 points. De Colo, the former Raptor now playing in Russia, added 22.
Once again, Canada’s Olympic hoops hopes rest on an excellent women’s squad that dominated last summer’s competitions and has a shot at a medal.