CARACAS (Venezuela) – Venezuela’s goal was simple for their final game of the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 Americas Qualifiers. If they win, they punch their ticket.
The problem was they had to play the top team in Group E – Canada, who only suffered their first loss of the competition this window, and had long before qualified for the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023.
Even despite falling to Canada 74-57, Venezuela still managed to clinch a spot in the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 as Dominican Republic defeated Argentina 79-75.
This is the fifth time in history that Venezuela qualifies to the World Cup and their second in a row.
Venezuela’s team is a much older group than Canada – the average age is 32 for Venezuela – but their experience has been apparent through the six qualifier windows.
As for Canada and their ever-changing roster, while they had the safety of knowing that no matter the outcome they would be going to the World Cup anyways, they still looked to close out the qualifiers on a high after falling to Argentina.
Venezuela punched hard and first, managing to gain a six point lead early going up 15-9, but Canada can play catch up and managed to grab back the lead with just over two minutes to play in the first quarter.
Six turnovers in the first quarter from Venezuela led to seven points for Canada as they staretd to get flustered when Canada came back, but Venezuela still dominated the boards and made it physically challenging for Canada with their defense.
Garly Sojo played some of the best defense for Venezuela, blocking shots and holding Canada early, but as one of the best shooting teams in the competition, Canada still managed to shoot 60 percent in the quarter.
Moving to the second frame Trae Bell-Haynes was cooking when it came to playmaking, tallying five assists and four rebounds in 11 minutes off the bench to help fuel Canada’s change of pace for second quarter to end the frame up seven points.
Jackson Rowe led Canada’s offense with 10 points on 50 percent shooting in the half while Kalif Young pushed Venezuela physically and added eight points of his own.
Venezuela struggled in their shooting, making just 34 percent of their field goals and missing shots from the three-point line, but veteran Sojo led the team with seven points at the half while Windi Graterol and Nestor Colemenares added six each.
Canada’s deep bench scored 11 more points than Venezuela’s did by the half, but their depth showed even more late in the game as Canada continued to hold a lead over Venezuela as they continued to struggle from long and in turn sloppy play resulted in turnovers back to Canada.
By the end of the third quarter Canada led by 15 points, their largest lead of the game, despite Venezuela finding a second wind and pushing the pace in transition against Canada.
Their stealthy defense led to getting the ball back themselves on multiple occasions, but scoring woes persisted as they shot just 29 percent from all areas of the floor and Nestor Colmenares was the only player to find double digit scoring through three quarters.
As the game entered the final 10 minutes emotions were high as both teams were fighting to close out the game with a win – Conor Morgan and Michael Carrera showed their physicality against each other early in the fourth going for a jump ball – and Venzuela had no quit.
Gregory Vargas was a pillar for Venezuela late in the fourth offensively, but as they had no answer for Canada’s Phil Scrubb, every time Venezuela cut into the lead Canada extended it once again.
Scrubb and Young led all scorers with 14 points for Canada while Rowe and Bell-Haynes both added another 12 points each.
Colmenares and Carrera both finished with double-doubles for Venezuela, with Colmenares recording 13 points and 10 rebounds while Carrera added 10 points and 11 rebounds.