MAR DEL PLATA, Argentina – The Senior Men’s National Team used a big fourth quarter push and out-scored Puerto Rico 27 – 17, but came up just short as Canada would fall to Puerto Rico 79 – 74 at the 2011 FIBA Americas Championship. With the loss, Canada drops to 0-2 in the second phase of the tournament; while Puerto Rico improves to 2-0.
“Obviously it was a tough loss,” said head coach Leo Rautins. “I think last night’s game appeared to have an effect on us in the first half. We appeared very sluggish, like we were walking in cement. We dug ourselves a hole that we were fortunate to get out of, but Puerto Rico made some plays down the stretch and we weren’t able to recover.”
Both teams shot the ball equally as efficient, shooting 49 percent for the game, with eight three-pointers each. Andy Rautins (Syracuse, NY) led Canada offensively, scoring 18 points, including two three-pointers. Carl English (St. John’s NL) continued his strong play with 13 points; while Levon Kendall (Vancouver, BC) added 10.
Defensively, Kelly Olynyk (Kamloops, BC) grabbed a team-high six rebounds. English and Kendall each recorded five rebounds apiece.
Despite the loss, coach Rautins understands that they still have two games remaining that they must stay motivated for.
“I give these guys credit. They are not going to quit, they’re going to fight,” continued Rautins. “They know there are two games to play and they’re going to try and win those two games. I’ve never had an issue with keeping these guys up.”
To start the game, both teams were strong as they exchanged baskets throughout the first quarter. Canada was led by the strength of three-pointers by English, Aaron Doornekamp (Odessa, ON) and Rautins to help Canada stay within one point of Puerto Rico after the first frame.
In the second quarter, Puerto Rico began to build their lead, going on a 9-2 run to start the quarter, which helped propel them to a 42-29 lead heading into halftime.
To start the second half, English continued to stay hot hitting a three pointer, followed by a lay-up en route to eight third quarter points. However, Puerto Rico continued to score from the outside and built their lead to 15 points going into the final quarter.
Canada began their comeback early in the fourth quarter, going on an 11 – 2 run in the first two and half minutes to cut the lead to a mere six points led by Denham Brown (Toronto, ON), Cory Joseph (Pickering, ON) and Olynyk. Canada continued their comeback, which was capped off by a three-pointer by Aaron Doornekam (Odessa, ON) to tie the game at 67 at the 2:17 mark. However, five straight points by Carlos Arroyo put Puerto Rico up with under a minute to play. Rautins quickly pulled within two with a three-pointer; however this would be the closest Canada would get as Puerto Rico would hold onto the victory.
For Puerto Rico, Arroyo led the way with a game-high 26 points.
Coach Rautins understands that Arroyo was a key player going into the game and will be moving forward through the tournament.
“[Arroyo] has been a major international player for a long time,” said Rautins. “He’s singlehandedly taken down a lot of teams. We tried different things with him in the second half, but down the stretch, he made some tough shots. That’s what he does, that’s what he’s always done.”