Levon Kendall- 19 Points, 11 Rebounds
Andy Rautins- 15 Points
MAR DEL PLATA, Argentina-– The Senior Men’s National Team continued the second phase of the 2011 FIBA Americas Championship by holding off Uruguay with a 70-68 victory. Canada was able to endure a late fourth quarter rally from Uruguay to push their record to 1-2 in the second phase and drop Uruguay to 0-3.
“We came out with real good energy, but we knew that Uruguay was not going to go away,” said head coach Leo Rautins. “Especially against us, they come out like there’s no tomorrow. They came out in the second half and put up a pretty good fight. Fortunately we were able to hang in there and make some plays down the stretch.”
Canada was led Levon Kendall (Vancouver, BC), who recorded a double-double with a game-high 19 points and 11 rebounds. He came up with his biggest game of the tournament when the team needed him most without two of their main interior threats, Joel Anthony (Montreal, QC) and Aaron Doornekamp (Odessa, ON).
“[Kendall] knew he had to play big today and he’s had a sore back the last couple of games, which was a concern of mine, but he got in there and got the job done,” said Rautins of Kendall’s big game.
“He did a good job in stretching the defense and making shots down the stretch. Overall, that’s the type of game that we know Levon can bring to the table.”
Heading into the game, Kendall knew he needed a big game for Canada to succeed and welcomed the challenge.
“I was used to playing big minutes leading up to this tournament,” said Kendall. “This isn’t the first time I have been in this position, where we were missing some big guys, so I was ready for it and looking forward to the opportunity to playing up to my potential.”
Canada also used 15 points from Andy Rautins (Syracuse, NY), who hit key three-pointers late in the game to secure the win for Canada. In the game, he made four three-pointers, bringing his total to 16, which is third best in the tournament. Adding to the Canadian offensive was Denham Brown (Toronto, ON) who chipped in with nine points.
Both teams exchanged points in the early going with the score tied at eight halfway through the first quarter. However, Rautins came off the bench and shot two three-pointers to give Canada a 19-17 lead after the first 10 minutes of play.
In the second quarter, Canada began to pull away, led by Kendall, who scored nine points in the final four minutes of the quarter, capped off by a steal and a breakaway dunk. Canada’s offensive efficiency allowed them to take a 41-27 lead heading into halftime.
Kendall continued to build Canada’s lead with four points in the early going of the third quarter giving Canada a 21 point lead, the biggest lead of the game. Despite a run by Uruguay that allowed them to climb back within single digits, Canada still maintained a nine point edge going into the final frame.
Early in the fourth quarter, Uruguay continued to chip away at Canada’s lead, eventually tying the game with 5:43 left in the game thanks to a three-pointer by Leandro Morales. Morales then gave Uruguay their first lead of the game with another three-pointer, but Rautins answered with a three of his own. Gustavo Barrea then regained the lead for Uruguay. The two teams battled down the stretch until Rautins buried a three-pointer with under a minute to go to give Canada to the lead for good.
Canada will conclude the FIBA Americas Championship and look to continue their winning ways tomorrow versus Panama at 11:30 am local time (10:30 am ET). Canada needs to win in order to keep Olympic hopes alive.
“We need to take care of business,” said Kendall of tomorrow’s do-or-die match. “We have to win regardless what happens. After that, it’s out of our hands, but first and foremost, we have to put ourselves in a position to have that opportunity.”
A win tomorrow against Panama combined with a loss by Venezuela against Uruguay would ensure Canada’s spot as the fifth place finisher in the tournament and would qualify for the Olympic Qualifying Tournament in July.