LIEPAJA, LATVIA-– Down by 13 to Croatia (2-0) in its second game of the FIBA U19 World Championship for Men with a little over four minutes to play in the fourth quarter, the Canadian Junior Men’s National Team (JMNT) collected itself and went on an 11-0 run to cut the deficit to just four points but couldn’t make it over that final hump as it fell to Croatia 88-84 on Friday.
Despite the loss, however, Canada (1-1) will still be guaranteed a spot in the next round of the competition because Lithuania (1-1) beat Korea (0-2) earlier today, 117-64, meaning Korea won’t have any chance to make a run at third place.
Kevin Pangos (Holland Landing, Ont.) led the way for Canada, scoring 19 points, including an impressive 5-of-11 shooting from 3-point territory and, according to JMNT head coach Greg Francis, his efforts really sparked the team’s play.
“Kevin was the key for us today,” Francis said after the game. “He was getting a lot of people involved and I think we ended up taking too many threes probably for my liking but at the same time Kevin was really setting guys up and we ended up taking good threes and nobody was really forcing.”
Canada shot very well from behind the arc in the first half, going 7-of-16 from outside before cooling down in the second half where it only went 2-of-16.
Dyshawn Pierre (Whitby, Ont.) came up with another strong performance, pouring in 16 points and 11 rebounds.
On Croatia’s side, center Boris Barac finished with 18 points and a game-high 16 rebounds while Mario Hezonja led all scorers with 21 points on a very efficient 9-of-12 from the floor.
Overall, the match was very evenly played with neither team gaining much of an advantage in any particular statistical category and this was reflected in the actual score itself throughout the game as neither team could create a lot of separation between each other until the fourth quarter.
In that period, Croatia went on a quick 5-0 run early in the period that forced the Canadians to take a timeout that would not stop the momentum the Croatians had built up as they would stretch their run out to 15-2 making the game 82-69 when Canada would begin its 11-0 charge.
Currently, in the tournament standings, Canada is tied for second place in Group C with Lithuania, a team it will face tomorrow beginning at 8:30 pm local time (1:30 pm E.T.), and even though it is guaranteed to advance to the next round, according to JMNT shooting guard Junior Lomomba, Canada is still focused on coming away win to try to forget about today’s defeat.
“We can’t let ourselves get down.” Lomomba said. “Even though we lost this game we got another one tomorrow. That’s the good thing about these tournaments, even though we lost today we can get up the next morning and go out to get another one.”