By Greg Mercer
The Hamilton Spectator (Aug 09, 2016 )
Hamilton guard scores 25 points in comeback victory
RIO DE JANEIRO - Looking down and out and overwhelmed by a tough Serbian squad, Canada's basketball women turned to young point guard Kia Nurse to pull off a thrilling comeback Monday in their second game at the 2016 Olympics.
Nurse, the talented 20-year-old from Hamilton, scored 25 points as Canada clawed their way out of an 18-point deficit to beat a stunned Serbian team. The Canadians went up 2-0 in the tournament with the win, putting them in the second spot in their pool behind the powerhouse U.S.
“This is a game we really wanted to win, and when we play in desperation mode, that’s when we’re really, really good,” said Nurse, who led with over 29 minutes on the court.
The women, who won gold at the Pan Ams last summer, showed poise even as the game looked like it was slipping out of reach. It was a huge rally to beat the reigning European champions, and a big boost to a team that already came into Rio with a lot of confidence.
“That’s the fighting spirit that Canada Basketball knows. That’s how we got to where we are. It’s never pretty,” said Guelph power forward Natalie Achonwa.
“(The win) puts a smile on our face, but we didn’t come here to win two games. We have to keep that main goal in mind.”
The Serbians, backed by vocal fans who booed every time a Canadian player touched the ball, played an unorthodox style that the Canucks had no answer for, at first. A loud contingent of Canadians fans exchanged cheers back and forth with the Serbian crowd, making a thunderous sound inside the arena.
As the Serbians pulled ahead, coach Lisa Thomaidis eventually scrapped the game plan and went with faster, younger, athletic players who began drawing the frustrated Serbians into repeated fouls.
The women’s basketball team, which beat China 90-68 on Saturday, will play Senegal on Wednesday. The top four teams in each pool will advance to the semifinal round.
Earlier on Monday, Canada’s women’s eight rowing crew failed to advance to the final. The team, which includes University of Guelph grad Cristy Nurse, a former varsity basketball player, will now row in the repechage on Wednesday.
The rowers came third in their heat, behind Great Britain and New Zealand, finishing in a time of 6:12.44. It was Nurse’s first race in the Olympics.
Sam Schachter, a former standout Wilfrid Laurier University volleyball player, was set to play his second match in beach volleyball Monday night in Rio. He and partner Josh Binstock lost their first match Saturday 2-0 to Brazil’s Alison Cerutti and Bruno Oscar.