March 14, 2022

Czech Republic wins OT thriller 103-101 to dash Canada’s men’s basketball Olympic bid

Canada’s hopes for a berth in the Tokyo Olympics were ended Saturday by the Czech Republic, who posted a 103-101 overtime win at a last-chance men’s basketball qualifying event in Victoria.

Czech captain Tomas Satoransky scored with 1.4 seconds left on the clock to seal the win for the Czechs, who will now play either Greece or Turkey in Sunday’s final.

The Canadians were down nine points with 44 seconds to go in regulation but stormed back, capped with a basket from Andrew Wiggins that tied the game at 94-94 with less than three seconds left, forcing the extra time.

“We’re getting better every game and I hope it’s going to continue,” said Satoransky, an NBA Chicago Bulls guard.

The Czechs led throughout the contest, paced by forward Blake Schilb who netted 31 points.

“It feels amazing to win that thriller in overtime against a great Canadian team,” he said.

The Czechs, whose roster included two seven-foot-tall centres, often dominated the undersized Canadians.

“We gave ourselves a chance to win,” said a dejected Cory Joseph, Canada’s captain. “It was OT. We didn’t get the job done. We had lots of open shots. The ball didn’t drop. That’s the way it goes sometimes.”

Canada was paced by forwards RJ Barrett, with 23 points, and Wiggins, who collected 22 points and eight rebounds.

Nickeil Alexander-Walker also had 21 points for Canada.

Canada reached the semifinals with wins over Greece (97-91) and China (107-79) in group action at the must-win tournament, but now must wait for the Paris Games in 2024 for another shot at Olympic glory.

About 800 boisterous pro-Canada fans were in the building Saturday clapping, stomping and cheering on the Canadians following the relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions. The smell of freshly popped popcorn wafted through the arena.

Coach Nick Nurse, who also coaches the NBA’s Toronto Raptors, said it took the team until late in the second half to counter the Czech effort.

“It was ultra, ultra physical out there,” he said. “We played the way we needed to play in the second half. It was kind of one of those days, the ball didn’t go in as much as we needed it to.”

Eight NBA players, including Alexander-Walker (New Orleans), Trey Lyles (San Antonio), Mychal Mulder (Golden State), Joseph (Detroit), Luguentz Dort (Oklahoma), Wiggins (Golden State), Barrett (New York) and Dwight Powell (Dallas), were part of the roster, widely considered the most talented Canadian men’s basketball team in history for the tournament.

The 12-member squad was rounded out by Trae Bell-Haynes, Anthony Bennett, Aaron Doornekamp and Andrew Nicholson.

Canada, ranked No. 21 in the world, was in Group A with Greece and China for the six-team tournament that started Tuesday. Group B included Uruguay, Turkey and the Czech Republic.

China and Uruguay were eliminated earlier this week.

There are three other last-chance tournaments happening in Croatia, Lithuania and Serbia this week to determine the final Olympic spots.

The Canadian women’s team, ranked fourth, earned its third consecutive Olympic berth last February.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 3, 2021.

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