Miranday Ayim, Nirra Fields, Natalie Achonwa & Lizanne Murphy
Written by Jas Grewal
(Toronto, On)– Depth and a little bit of star power were key ingredients to the gold medal win for Canada at the Pan Am games on Monday evening as the hometown ladies routed Team USA 81-73.
Despite being evenly matched for the first half of action, the Canadian girls were able to prevail against a talented and physical United States ball club.
University of Connecticut star and Hamilton, Ontario native Kia Nurse single-handedly kept the Canadians in this one early on when things went awry for the red and white.
She finished the night with a game high 33 points (including 11/12 from the free throw line ) and six rebounds, including a series of timely baskets to eventually bury the blue and white.
“Yeah, I was kind of just hoping to get the momentum switched,” said Nurse as she proudly wore the gold around her neck. “I know the U.S had the momentum going on for a little while there and [it was] just a matter of staying within what I do well, and my teammates did a really good job helping me do that.”
The ladies had a tough going early on but used a little assistance from Nurse to help right the ship. Canada saw themselves down by as many as 10 points early in the second quarter when Nurse strung together a series of baskets to help ignite a 20-7 run to eventually steal back the lead.
Nirra Fields, Natalie Achonwa & Lizanne Murphy
But it was the third quarter that made the difference in this one. Not only did Canada outscore team USA 26-15 in the third frame, but they also limited Moriah Jefferson’s production to just two points in the second half – thanks in part to Nurse’s stifling defensive pressure.
“I said to Kia, because she is one of the youngest [players] on the team, ‘I started playing for Canada basketball when I was 14’. ‘I’m turning 33 and I’ve never had a gold medal around my neck,” said Edmonton native Shona Thorburn, the team’s eldest player. “This is a huge tournament to do that at.”
When asked to talk about Nurse’s performance tonight, Thorburn only had one thing to say, “[I’m] speechless.”
The Canadians were able to fend off a fourth quarter run by team USA with a pair of clutch shots by Indiana Fever’s Natalie Achonwa – the unsung hero – and, of course, Nurse’s clutch dribble drive lay-ins near the end of regulation.
“That was a pretty darn impressive performance, especially with the magnitude of the game. To have that kind of performance, I mean come on,” said coach Lisa Thomaidis after the win, “Being 19 or 20, whatever she is right now, it’s just astounding. It’s unimaginable really.”
Canada held UConn star Breanna Stewart to 17pts on 42% shooting.
Canada out rebounded the USA 39-35, including 13 offensive rebounds.
Natalie Achonwa added 13pts while battling foul trouble.
Tamara Tatham poured in 10pts in a spirited performance.
The USA committed 18 turnovers compared to 12 for Canada.
Canada had 14 assists compared to 5 for USA.
Cuba won the Bronze medal with a 66-62 win over Brazil.
Written by Jas Grewal
Photos by Reel Motion Imaging
Edited by Drew Ebanks