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Gilgeous-Alexander leads Canada past Spain to clinch 2024 Paris Olympics berth

JAKARTA, Indonesia –

Canada’s men’s basketball team is returning to the Olympics.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored 30 points, including going 14-of-16 at the free-throw line, as Canada fended off Spain 88-85 on Sunday at the FIBA men’s basketball World Cup. The win sends Canada to the international tournament’s quarterfinals and clinches a spot at the 2024 Paris Olympics.

Canada’s men’s basketball team has not played at the Olympics since the 2000 Sydney Games.

“We’re a part of history,” said Gilgeous-Alexander, who added seven assists and four rebounds. “It’s something that’s almost indescribable.

“So many people along the way have put in so much work for this program and having the opportunity to do so, we want to thank them and also represent them when we go, and in the rest of this tournament (as well).”

The Canadians will face Slovenia on Wednesday in the playoffs.

Dillon Brooks played solid defence for Canada (4-1) and had 22 points, including 11 in the fourth quarter, and RJ Barrett added 16.

Willy Hernangomez’s 25 points led Spain (3-2) and Santiago Aldama added 18.

A 69-65 loss to Brazil on Friday put Canada in a must-win situation against the Spanish on Sunday.

After trailing by 10 at the half, the Canadians rallied in the third quarter to go ahead by three. But Spain outscored Canada 21-6 in the final 4:44 of the quarter to go into the fourth with a 12-point lead.

“We just dug deep,” said Barrett. “Dillon was huge, Shai iced the game, made all the free throws. We just dug deep, man. We hit some adversity, down 12 to start the fourth quarter and we just stayed together.”

Trailing 78-74 with 1:51 left in the game, Gilgeous-Alexander drove to the net for a layup and drew a foul. He sank the free throw for a three-point play to pull Canada to within one.

Hernangomez was foulled at the other end of the floor and hit both free throws to make it 80-77.

Brooks drilled a three-pointer on the next possession to tie it up with 1:12 left to play.

He then planted his feet and forced Alex Abrines out of bounds for a Spanish turnover. That put the ball in Gilgeous-Alexander’s hands, who made a step-back jumper for a two-point lead with 43.5 seconds to go.

A Spanish shot was tipped away, with Lu Dort catching the ball and handing it off to Gilgeous-Alexander. He was quickly foulled, sending him to the line for two free throws.

Canadian fans chanted “M-V-P!” as he made both of them for a four-point lead.

After a timeout, Juan Nunez made a hook shot to help Spain close within two points.

Gilgeous-Alexander was foulled after Canada inbounded the ball, sending him to the line again. He sank both of them for another four-point lead with 13 seconds to play.

Aldama made a three-pointer to make it a one-point game, and Gilgeous-Alexander was triple-teamed on the next inbound for a quick foul, again sending him to the free-throw line.

Once more, Gilgeous-Alexander made both free-throws and then Spain was unable to get off a viable shot with less than four seconds on the clock.

“It was a really, really good game,” said Gilgeous-Alexander. “Really high-level basketball. It was a lot of adversity. They played a really well-rounded game from start to finish.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 3, 2023.

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