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Canadian women fall to Spain in FIBA Olympic qualifier

Canada Spain Natalie Achonwa Laura Gil - The Canadian Press

SOPRON, Hungary — Kayla Alexander had 17 points and 14 rebounds but Canada fell 60-55 to Spain on Friday in FIBA Olympic qualifying tournament action.

Natalie Achonwa added seven points and 11 rebounds for fifth-ranked Canada. The Canadians rallied from an 11-point halftime lead, outscoring Spain 23-9 in the third quarter and holding a lead late in the fourth before ultimately falling short.

“Very proud of my players,” Canada head coach Victor Lapena told reporters Friday. “In this kind of situation after Japan defeated (Spain on Thursday), it is very, very difficult. ... They pushed us out of our style of play, but after halftime, we fixed something.

"I was very happy with how the team came back into the game, how we understood perfectly the way to beat Spain. It was a great learning for us, if we have the option to play against Spain again in the future.”

Megan Gustafson and Queralt Casas paced fourth-ranked Spain with 16 and 13 points, respectively.

After taking a 16-12 edge to end the opening frame, Spain outscored Canada 20-13 in the second quarter to take a 36-25 halftime edge.

Alexander scored eight of her 17 points in the third quarter to lead the charge, and Bridget Carleton closed the frame with a block that allowed Canada to take a 48-45 lead into the fourth.

A Carleton layup put Canada ahead 55-53 with 4:44 remaining. However, the Canadians failed to score the rest of the way while the Spaniards sealed the deal on a 7-0 run.

The four-team competition is one of four qualifying tournaments in play for the remaining 10 spots for the 2024 Paris Games. The U.S. and France already have spots in the Olympics.

The top-two teams from the tournaments involving the U.S. and France will qualify, while the top-three teams from the other two tournaments will book their tickets to Paris.

With Japan having fallen to host Hungary 81-75 later on Friday, all four teams in this tournament are deadlocked at 1-1.

Canada topped Hungary 67-55 on Thursday and will next face ninth-ranked Japan on Sunday. A win against Japan would qualify Canada for the Olympics.

“(We) move on, have a good rest and focus on our next game on Sunday against Japan,” Lapena said. “We have to play a serious game against Japan.

"Intense, smart, and I am sure that Sunday we will qualify.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 9, 2024.