Canada’s Junior Men’s National Team (JMNT) captured the bronze medal in an over time thriller on Wednesday, June 30 by defeating Argentina 86-83 at the FIBA Americas U18 Championship for Men. With an overall record of 3-2, the JMNT has successfully qualified for a spot at the 2011 FIBA U19 World Championship for Men in Latvia.
The Canadian boys finished second in Group B in the preliminary round, including wins over Uruguay (76-52), Puerto Rico (100-83) and a hard fought loss to Brazil (78-83). In the semi-final round, Toronto native Myck Kabongo posted an impressive stat line of 32 points, nine assists and seven rebounds in Canada’s loss to USA (89-122) to set up the bronze medal match against Argentina.
Bronze Medal Match – Game Recap:
Kyle Wiltjer (West Linn, Ore.) led the JMNT in scoring with 27 points while Kabongo scored 15 points and Julian Clarke (Toronto) added 14 points off the bench.
"It’s a great feeling,” said JMNT Head Coach Greg Francis. “These guys battled Argentina, and for these guys to make a lot of shots it was not an easy game, and I am really proud they fought the way they did."
The 6-foot-9 Wiltjer shot 9-of-12 from the floor, including 5-of-6 threes, and 4-of-4 from the free throw line. As a team, the Canadians shot 45 per cent from beyond the arc and 47 per cent overall.
“Argentina is always tough and this game was no exception,” said Clarke, who shot 4-of-5 from three including timely three-pointers in the fourth quarter and in overtime.
“We really came through in the clutch as a team. If Kyle and I don’t hit those late threes without Myck kicking it out at the right time, Khem [Birch] blocking shots, Kevin Thomas working his butt off. Everyone played an important role.”
The South Americans led for most of the game until Canada made a 12-1 run in the fourth quarter with a field goal by Kevin Thomas (Ajax, Ont.) at the 3:28 mark putting the Canadians up by one. Kabongo, who was relatively quiet throughout the first three quarters, made key plays in the fourth quarter to bring the team back as they outscored Argentina 26-19. He finished with 12 assists and seven rebounds.
On the defensive side, Canada held Argentina to 41 per cent from the floor and recorded 10 blocked shots, seven of them by Montreal native Khem Birch and three by Thomas. The JMNT also outrebounded their opponents 36-32 with Thomas leading the way with 10 boards.
Carlos Paredes led Argentina with a game high 28 points and team high eight rebounds. Marcos Delia scored 11 points while Fernando Podesta and Pablo Perez added 10 points each.
This medal performance marks the second time that the JMNT has finished third at a FIBA Americas U18 Championship event. Canada also won bronze in the 2008 event held in Formosa, Argentina. Their performance at this year’s FIBA U18 Championship has qualified them for next summer’s 2011 FIBA U19 World Championship in Latvia.
Clarke added, “we are looking forward to the worlds! Congratulations to everyone and keep up the good work Canada!”
Canada and the Leader Board:
The JMNT was well represented on the tournament leader board, capturing top-ten honours in eight of the nine categories. Kabongo led all players in ‘assists’ with 6.4 per game and in ‘free throws made’, 6.8 per game. The future Texas longhorn ranked seventh in the tournament in ‘three point shooting’ at 43.8 per cent and made the top 10 in ‘three pointers made’ with 1.4 per game. He and Wiltjer were ranked fourth and fifth in the scoring category with 19.8 points per game and 19.4 points per game.
Wiltjer led all players shooting 92.9 per cent from the charity stripe and in ‘three point shooting’ with an incredible 69.6 per cent. He was also ranked third overall in the ‘three pointers made’ category with 3.2 threes per game.
Khem Birch shared team honours with Kabongo in the ‘rebounding’ category with 7.8 per game as they were ranked fifth and sixth respectively in the tournament. Birch was ranked second overall in the ‘blocked shots’ category with 4.2 per game and swatted away seven shots against Argentina.
Forward Kevin Thomas was ranked seventh overall in both the ‘rebounds’ and ‘free throw percentage’ categories. He grabbed 7.6 rebounds per game and shot 80 per cent from the free throw line.
FIBA Americas U18 Championship – Final Standings:
- Puerto Rico
- Virgin Islands
*Qualified for 2011 FIBA U19 World Championship for Men