Brampton, Pickering, Milton ballers help Canada earn bronze at FIBA U19 World Cup

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Published July 24, 2023 at 3:49 pm

Canada’s U19 Women’s National Team stormed back from an 11-point fourth quarter deficit to beat France 80-73 in overtime Sunday to capture a bronze medal – just their second ever – at the FIBA U19 Women’s Basketball World Cup in Madrid, Spain.

The host team, which beat Canada in the semi-final, fell to the USA in the gold medal game, 69-66.

Syla Swords was electric in Canada’s final game, making shots when it mattered to guide Canada to victory, finishing with a game-high 26 points, six rebounds and six assists. Her performance earned her a spot on the tournament’s second all-star team.

Swords’ 26 points are the most scored for a Canadian in a medal game at the FIBA U19 Women’s Basketball World Cup. Her 17 halftime points – on 63 per cent shooting – are also the most ever scored in a medal game by a Canadian at the tournament.

Canada got off to a slow start, with just two points in the game’s first six minutes, but began to storm back when Swords hit the team’s first field goal at 3:10 in the quarter to bring Canada within single digits of the lead.

France still led by seven after one quarter and managed to widen the lead to 10 points to start the second period but some aggressive play by the Canadians and a pair of free throws by Swords gave Canada a one point lead heading into the break.

France came out strong in the third quarter and led by as many as eight until Brampton’s Jada Bediako’s layout drew Canada back to within six points and with 3:05 left in the final quarter, Swords made a three to put Canada up by one. Forty-six seconds later she was fouled and made one of two free throws to tie the game at 68 and send the game into extras.

A back-and-forth start to overtime saw both teams trade leads until Toby Fournier, who averaged 16.1 points per game and led the tournament with 13.7 rebounds per game, knocked down a pair of free throws to extend Canada’s lead to four points. Fournier was named to the all-world first team, just the third Canada to do so since 2009.

Free throws were instrumental for Canada in overtime. The team made 7/10 free throws in the final five minutes of play to secure the win.

Head Coach Carly Clarke, who was also in charge when Canada earned bronze in 2017, said the message going into overtime was to just relax and enjoy the moment.

“I tried to lighten the mood. Honestly, I just said, ‘Hey, we’re having so much fun. We get to play five more minutes.’”

“Everyone made the most of their minutes, whether it was 30 seconds or almost 45 minutes for some. Huge credit to the team for staying connected, trusting the process, leaning into what everyone was being asked to do, and it was a real joy to watch them celebrate this win today. They certainly earned it.”

Mary-Anna Asare of Pickering scored three points (all from the line) and added six boards for Canada, while Bediako was an option off the bench during the competition, with her best game coming in pool play against Egypt.

Jasmine Bascoe of Milton contributed 5.2 points per game during the tournament, though she did not play in the final.

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