Since 2009, the FIBA U16 Americas Championships has been the pinnacle of international success for Canada, boasting an impressive record of 26 wins and 10 losses. This remarkable achievement has earned the country a total of seven medals, including three silver and four bronze.
Building upon this rich history, Canada continued their strong record against the Dominican Republic at the U16 Americas championships with a hard-fought 63-57 win to kick off the 2023 and eighth edition of the bi-annual event in the city of Mérida in Yucatán, Mexico.
From the opening tip-off, Canada displayed their determination by scoring the first five points of the game. However, the Dominican Republic quickly responded with an impressive 12-0 run, taking a control and a 12-5 lead.
Undeterred by the early setback, the Canadians mounted a spirited comeback, as Kamai Samuels (Montreal, Que.), floated home a two-point basket to give Canada a slim 16-15 edge at the end of the first quarter.
Both teams struggled to find their shooting rhythm in the second quarter, resulting in a dismal combined (12-of-42) shooting percentage of 28.6%. The first basket of the quarter came with just five minutes remaining until halftime.
Despite a rough 1-of-17 start from beyond the arc, Canada managed to tie the game at 31-31 at halftime with back-to-back left corner three-pointers from six-foot-six forward Godson Okokoh of Ottawa, Ontario, and Quinten Ethier of St. Catharines, Ontario.
The third quarter saw the Dominican Republic utilizing their strong three-point shooting to launch a 10-1 run, securing a 43-34 advantage. However, Canada’s tenacious defence held their opponents scoreless for the rest of the quarter, allowing them to take a narrow 46-43 lead with a crucial four-point play by Jordan Charles from Scarborough, Ontario.
Carrying the momentum into the fourth quarter, Canada continued to build on their lead. Charles connected on his second triple of the game, while Samuels displayed his athleticism with a coast-to-coast slam dunk, ensuring Canada’s victory with a single-digit margin.
Standing out for Canada, Paul Osaruyi, an eighth-grader from Scarborough, Ontario, delivered an outstanding performance. The six-foot-nine forward asserted himself early in the contest and with a strong double-double of 14 points, 11 rebounds, and four blocks in 27 minutes.
Osaruyi, who plays for Dream City Christian School and the Arizona Unity grassroots program in Glendale, Arizona, has already attracted attention from major NCAA division I basketball programs, including Oklahoma State and Cal State Northridge.
Providing a crucial spark off the bench, Charles made his presence felt with eleven second-half points, three rebounds, and three steals.
Meanwhile, fourteen-year-old (August, 3, 2008) forward Okokoh showcased his talent with eight points, nine rebounds, two assists including a solid shooting performance that included 3-of-6 shooting and 2-of-2 from downtown. Samuels displayed an all-around game, contributing nine points, six rebounds, and four assists in 21 minutes.
Six-foot-five forward, Patrick Anamali (Calgary, Alta.), also had a strong effort in the second-half, finishing with eight points and five rebounds. Ethier added 7 points and six rebounds.
Canada’s dominance on the boards and superior size was evident throughout the game, out-rebounding the Dominican Republic by an impressive margin of 63-43. However, they struggled to handle their opponents’ relentless pressure, committing 22 turnovers that resulted in 17 points off miscues.
Another area of concern for the Canadians was their below-par free-throw shooting, converting only 8-of-18 attempts (44.4%) percent.
Lucas Morillo, a six-foot-seven forward, led the Dominican Republic with a game-high 21 points, six rebounds, and six steals. Shooting guard Richard Fernández contributed 16 points, four steals, and three rebounds.
With this victory, Canada starts the tournament on a positive note, improving their record to 7-1 all-time in opening games. Their perfect record against the Dominican Republic since 2015 remains intact, although this game showcased the closest margin of victory in recent encounters. In previous meetings, Canada had defeated the Dominican Republic by margins of 46, 16, and 16 points.
Looking ahead, Canada will face Uruguay in their second game of the 2023 FIBA U16 Americas championships. Their final preliminary game in Group B will be against a tough Brazilian squad.
The top four teams will qualify for the 2024 FIBA U17 World Championships in Turkey.