Defence powers Canada's Olympic women's basketball squad
By STEVE BUFFERY, QMI Agency
LONDON - The Canadian women’s basketball team wasn’t expected to do much of anything at these Olympic Games.
No Canadian squad has qualified for an Olympic tournament since 2000 and this side only made it on their very last chance with a 71-63 win over Japan on Canada Day in Turkey.
But now they’re one win away from making it to the medal round (though they have one more preliminary game left with Australia on Sunday that will determine their quarter-final opponents).
There is a sense of surprise around the Olympic basketball venue that Canada has made it to the quarters, thanks to their 79-73 victory over Brazil Friday.
But head coach Allison McNeill knew her team would rise to the occasion, leading up to London and at the Games.
“I was quoted as saying that I think this year was going to be good to us,” said McNeill. “We weren’t ready last year. We needed more time. We were too young. Courtnay Pilypaitis has been with us two years, Krista Phillips two years. It’s not long enough. I just think we’ve gotten lot better and maybe they were not expecting us to be as good.”
When McNeill says “they,” she could have been talking about the Brazilians, or all the teams at this tournament. The Canadian women have earned a reputation for being incredibly tenacious and for playing solid defence, though scoring is often a challenge. And though they’ve lost two of their four games, they’ve been in every game and the respect is building.
“You sort of circle the wagons and bond together and I think this group has done that,” said McNeill. “These players weren’t all stars at the universities, they weren’t stars on their club teams, maybe even some of them weren’t stars on the junior team. But they’ve had this longevity to stay together and to see this vision. As a coaching staff we presented this vision pretty clearly and they bought in.
“We think of ourselves as an incredibly relentless and resilient group of women and as a team that’s one of the things that we strive to be.”