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Canada outlasts Dominican Republic in 2023 FIBA World Cup Qualifiers

Facing their strongest test to date, Team Canada picked up a key road victory over the Dominican Republic in 2023 FIBA basketball World Cup Qualifiers.

Canada’s senior men’s basketball team outlasted the Dominican Republic 85-79 in 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup Qualifiers at the Palacio de los Deportes in Santo Domingo.

Canada controlled the game from the opening tip with a 10-0 run that stretched to a 17-5 advantage at the half-way mark of the first-quarter. Behind a loud and raucous home crowd, the Dominican Republic slowly tightened its execution, ripping off their own 15-2 run to take their only lead of the game at 20-19 with .47 seconds in the period.

Veteran national team forward Thomas Scrubb (Richmond, B.C) responded by nailing a corner triple in the dying seconds to give Canada a 22-20 edge after ten minutes.

Relying on solid team defence and timely shot making, the Canadians never relinquished their slim lead, building a nine point, 34-25 cushion on a Kyle Alexander offensive rebound, stick back reverse layup to force Dominican Republic head coach Melvyn Lopez to call a timeout.

“It was a great basketball atmosphere, the home crowd was great, very, very knowledgeable, and very supportive of their team”, discussed Canadian associate head coach Nate Bjorkgren after the tightly contested encounter.

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“I thought our guys did one heck of a job sticking together through all the ups and downs of the game, they came out fighting, every dead ball, and I like our team’s composure here tonight.”

Six-foot-ten forward Kyle Wiltjer (Portland, OR) paced four Canadians in double-figures with 15 points and 5 rebounds on 6-of-12 shooting. Point guard Philip Scrubb (Richmond, BC) led Canada’s back-court with 14 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists in 28 minutes.

Canadian guard kaza kajami keane defends gelvis solano of the dominican republic 2023 fiba basketball world cup qualifiers
Canadian guard Kaza Kajami-Keane defends Gelvis Solano of the Dominican Republic during 2023 FIBA basketball World Cup qualifiers – Photo: FIBA

“Going into the game, coach gave us a good game plan, and we executed it, and I think that was very key. I think that was the main thing that helped us get this victory”, detailed Kaza Kajami-Keane (Ajax, ON) who contributed with 13 points, 3 assists in 17 minutes to help Canada outscored the home team 30-27 in bench points.

“We said we wanted to make sure we stayed composed in an arena like this, they were pretty loud, and they understood the game. We wanted to stay consistent, just kind of lay, brick-by-brick, every possession.”

Sharpshooter Kassius Robertson (Toronto, ON) chipped in with 10 points on 2-of-3 from downtown. Other standouts included, Thomas Scrubb with 9 points, 6 rebounds, 2 steals. Trae Bell-Haynes (Toronto, ON) slashed his way to 9 points and Kyle Alexander (Milton, ON) was active with 8 points, 6 rebounds, 2 steals and a great chase down block.

Dominican republic angel delgado pulls down rebound against canada 2023 fiba basketball world cup qualifiers
Dominican Republic Angel Delgado pulls down a rebound against Canada in 2023 FIBA basketball world cup qualifiers – Photo: FIBA

The Dominican Republic’s Victor Liz led all scores with a game-high 29 points on 13-of-16 free-throws. Angel Delgado finished with a double-double of 11 points and 13 rebounds, and Eloy Vargas was also strong in the paint, adding 10 points and 9 rebounds.

Canada knocked down 31-of-59 (52.3%) attempts, including 9-of-24 (37.5%) three-pointers and a nearly perfect 14-of-16 from the foul-line.

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Behind some questionable officiating, the Dominican Republic paraded to the foul-line on early bonus situations, building up a massive free throw advantage. The Dominicans failed to capitalize, shooting an inefficient 24-of-44 (54.5%) to aid the Canadian’s winning cause.

Canada (3-0) remains undefeated and will play the U.S Virgin Islands (0-3) to closeout the second window of the qualifiers. The top three teams in each of the four preliminary groups advance to the second-round qualifiers.

Running from November 2021 to February 2023, the FIBA World Cup qualifiers pit national basketball federations playing home and away games in six tournament windows over a 15-month period.

The top seven teams from the Americas zone will earn a spot in the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023.

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