TORONTO–Canada concluded the 2013 Jack Donohue International Classic with a second win in as many games against Jamaica, this time winning 77-72.
Head coach Jay Triano was pleased with the latter half of the game, where his team overcame a 17-point deficit to leave with a victory. But beyond the result, Triano was mostly pleased just to play games. “Our goals were to be competitive, to play against somebody else and see what we could do,” he said, “and also to have this be a tryout so that we’ve got everybody in the games and we get a chance to evaluate our players. I think we’ve done both.”
The two teams back and forth in the first quarter, with Jamaica holding a slight 26-25 edge after 10 minutes. Playing without Samardo Samuels, Jamaica saw Patrick Ewing Jr. take over early on. Acting head coach Richard Polack said that was by design. “Patrick played a very, very good basketball game,” he said. “He started outside early. He actually said that. ‘Coach, I’m going to get some shots up early and then possibly get on the inside’.”
For Canada, what was notable about the beginning of the game actually occurred before even tip-off, with three-time CIS champion and NPH No.1-ranked player Philip Scrubb, starting in the backfield alongside San Antonio Spur Cory Joseph. “I think (the CIS is) definitely on the way up,” he said. “I think that more guys in the future could be playing for this team. The level of basketball in the CIS is definitely improving.”
At halftime, Jamaica led 49-37 with a momentous first half from Ewing Jr (i.e. 13 points, and he would finish with a game-high 20). The team even kept a double-digit lead for much of the third quarter as well, until Canada found its shooting touch.
The aim of such a classic is that some players force coaches into making tough decisions. It’s the case for Triano. He said that, “We’re trying to convince our guys that if you’re not on the team this year, it doesn’t mean you’re not with Canada Basketball. We have a pool of players and we’re just going to select 12 from the pool that are going to represent (the country) this summer.”
Triano put its gunners on the floor to close the third quarter, Andy Rautins and Brady Heslip, and they responded well. In fact, it was the Rautins show in the fourth quarter. “Andy’s a scorer and we needed points,” Triano said. “We had planned before this game on not playing him in the first half, we needed to take a look at other guys. And in the second half, if they stayed in zone, we knew that those two guys were going to get a chance to play.”
This role isn’t lost on Rautins. “As a leader on the team, as an older veteran guy on the team, that’s the role I need to play,” he said. “To bring that energy. To bring that shooting.”
The intensity inside the Mattamy Athletic Centre ratcheted up during the final period and with it, Canada stepped it up defensively. “I give them a lot of credit, they shot the ball extremely well in the first half,” Triano said. “We clamped down at the end when we had to, and that’s what we’re trying to do. We just need to do it from the beginning of the game.”
Throughout the game, Tristan Thompson and Anthony wreaked havoc down low. Thompson, who plays for the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers, was in fact selected as Canada’s player of the game with a team-high 16 points and game-high 10 rebounds. “He’s going to be one of our go-to guys. Offensive rebounding is huge for him,” Rautins said of Thompson. “He makes a lot of money doing that. We’re going to need him to do that for us game in and game out.”
Anthony showcased the poise that has made him a two-time NBA champion with the Miami Heat, hitting free throws and grabbing key rebounds down the stretch. In fact, that was a big difference–free throws. While Jamaica hit nine of its 18 freebies, Canada was perfect in 15 attempts. It helped offset Jamaica’s 47 per cent shooting from the three-point line.
Scrubb played key minutes in the fourth quarter for Canada, and it’s actually him who iced the game late. With 13.4 seconds left, and Canada up 75-72, Jamaica had to foul–and in a roster full of NBA players and professionals, they fouled the perfect guy in young Philip Scrubb. But coach Dave Smart’s protégé nailed both of the free throws, and that was all she wrote. “I was a little nervous,” he said.
It didn’t show.
Offensively, Ewing Jr. led Jamaica and was selected as his team’s player of the game, but he wasn’t alone. Weyinmi Rose, with 14, and Akeem Scott, with 10, also scored in double figures. “We’re a work in progress,” Polack said. “Our guys played with a lot of heart, and it’s something that I’ve come to expect from my Jamaican team. We always play with a lot of heart and we always fight until the bitter end. That’s a character that I really love about this basketball team.”
Thompson was a mismatch for whoever guarded him and three others scored in double figures for Canada–Andrew Nicholson had 13 points, Rautins chipped in 11 in the second half and Anthony added 10 points and 5 rebounds.
Next up is the final round of qualifiers for the 2013 FIBA Americas tournament, which tips off Aug. 30 in Venezuela. Canada leaves on Aug. 16.
NPH TOP PERFORMERS
- Patrick Ewing Jr.: 20 points, 5 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals, 1 block
- Weyinmi Rose: 14 points, 3 assists, 1 steal
- Akeem Scott: 10 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal
- Tristan Thompson: 16 points, 10 rebounds, 1 block
- Andy Rautins: 11 points, 1 assist, 1 steal
- Joel Anthony: 10 points, 5 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 blocks
Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @CeeeBG & NPH @Northpolehoops