A packed house at Ryerson University went home happy after Canada hung on to beat a feisty Belgium squad 79-74.
A huge block by Joel Anthony on Belgium’s first field goal attempt of the game set the tone for how Canada’s interior defence would play the rest of the game. Canada’s weak side defenders managed to frustrate Belgium early and often and it resulted in Belgium not scoring until the 5:31 mark when they connected on a corner three.
Canada held a 16-11 advantage at the end of first quarter thanks to their stifling defence.
Things fell apart briefly with Canada’s second unit on the court as Belgium went on a 5-0 run to start the second quarter. Canada didn’t score until the 6:10 mark of the second quarter which prompted the return of three of their starters.
Belgium continued to play the role of pesky guest as they cut Canada’s lead to 21-20.
“If we’re going to win games we need to be better on the defensive end,” a visually agitated Leo Rautins vented to the media after the win. “I thought for the first part of this game we were solid on the defensive end and then we just relaxed. We can’t relax; we need to play at a high level of intensity all of the time.”
Levon Kendall got tired of being a polite host in the second quarter and stole the ball at mid-court and raced down the court for a thunderous dunk that had the fans and his teammates on their feet.
The dunk cued a 14-2 run which helped Canada open up a 34-22 advantage.
Belgium threatened again to start the second half and cut their deficit to 36-32.
Once again, Kendall woke up the crowd and his teammates with a nasty dunk while getting fouled.
“Man, those dunks fired everybody up,” Andy Rautins told me after the game while grinning. “I think myself and the entire bench lost it there for a second. That’s the kind of stuff we need because we feed off of his energy.”
Despite Belgium threatening a couple of times in the third quarter, Canada was able to begin the fourth quarter with a 55-42 advantage.
Belgium threatened in the fourth quarter and cut Canada’s lead to six at 63-57 with 3:31 left but Andy Rautins had a big steal with 2:10 left in the game and Canada clinging to a 66-61 lead. Even though Canada wasn’t able to score on the subsequent break it helped breathe some life into what had become a tense gym and a tight team.
Less than a minute later Anderson followed up a trip to the free throw line with a steal. Anderson dished to Rautins on the break for a bucket which pushed Canada’s lead to 69-61 with just over a minute left in regulation.
On Canada’s following possession, Anderson made two free throws on Canada’s next possession to essentially ice the win with Canada up 73-66.
Photo Courtesy: Ryan McNeill