Cory Joseph in action for Canada against Mexico at the FIBA Americas Championship. (The Canadian Press)A huge fourth-quarter propelled Canada's senior men's basketball team to a crucial 89-67 win over Mexico at the FIBA Americas Championship in Caracas, Venezuela.
Canada outscored Mexico 29-9 in the final period of what was otherwise a tightly-contested game. Cory Joseph was all over the court, scoring 17 points to go along with 8 rebounds and 6 assists. Brady Heslip led Canadian scorers with 21 points including five three-pointers while Andy Rautins joined in on the three-point party drilling four of his own and finished with 19 points.
Gustavo Ayon had 19 points and 11 rebounds for Mexico. Orlando Melendez led all scorers with 23 points.
It was the reverse of Canada's loss earlier in the tournament to Puerto Rico when they were on the wrong end of a fourth-quarter swing. Head coach Jay Triano credits strong team defense for the positive finish.
"In the fourth quarter, when we started making shots, the thing that we were impressed with most was that we scored 29 points ... but they only had nine," Triano said. "I thought our defensive effort in the fourth quarter was outstanding."
It's the foundation that the team and the program needs. Not many games will be lost when successfully converting 16/28 three-point attempts. The defence needs to be a constant especially when the long distance shots aren't falling.
The game against Mexico was the first of four games in four days. It was an important win given that a semifinal berth guarantees Canada a spot at next summer's FIBA World Cup and that they have yet to face Argentina or the Dominican Republic as the top four teams from each group cross over to play each other.
As part of the tournament construct, the result from the game against the team eliminated after group play, in Canada's and Group A's case Brazil, does not count going forward.
Canada is now officially 3-1 and their next game is Friday against Venezuela (5:30 p.m. Eastern/2:30 p.m. Pacific, SN360).