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Canada beats Cuba, unbeaten entering FIBA Americas semis

The Canadian Press

9/25/2013 8:53:21 PM

XALAPA, Mexico -- Canada's defence made up for a sluggish offence to keep the women's basketball team undefeated at the FIBA Americas Championship.

Forward Tamara Tatham had a game-high 17 points and nine rebounds to lead Canada past Cuba 53-40 on Wednesday.

Guard Kia Nurse added 13 points, four rebounds and three assists as Canada finished with a record of 4-0, good for first in Group A. Canada will play Puerto Rico from Group B in Friday's semifinals.

The top three teams in Mexico earn a spot in the 2014 world tournament in Istanbul.

Tatham said the team is on a roll but needs to stay focused heading into the semis.

"We still want to win two more games but the biggest focus right now is to get the next one just so that verify that we will be going to worlds," she said.

"You know, the team's feeling good. We worked all summer for this. This is the time and this is where it counts, and everybody's going so well. We're not holding anything back."

Canada had been convincing in its first three wins of the tournament, but started slow against Cuba and trailed 17-9 after the first quarter.

"It sure wasn't an offensive juggernaut tonight was it," said head coach Lisa Thomaidis. "I said at the end that it was really our toughness and our fitness that were (the difference). We just rebounded the heck out of the ball, and (Cuba) were gassed. ...

"You know it's so deflating. Like I said, we weren't pretty at the offensive end but we got the stops and scored enough to build that lead."

Canada's shooters started to find their form in the second quarter, outscoring Cuba 32-13 and taking a 32-30 lead into halftime.

Canada went cold in the third with just eight points, but still managed to pad its lead. The Canadian defence held Cuba to a single basket in the quarter. Canada closed the match by winning the fourth quarter 13-8.

She was pleased with the result, but Thomaidis said her team's inconsistent shooting will have to improve quickly before the games that really matter.

"I wouldn't say we are super pleased. We know we are better than that," she said. "Pleased from the defensive perspective. We played tough, we played with a lot of heart, we stuck with what we know. ... The offensive end was a different story but Cuba gets a little bit of credit for that, too."