MANILA: Cory Joseph sank three of four pressure-laden free throws in the dying seconds Wednesday as Canada beat Senegal 58-55 to storm into the semi-finals of an Olympic basketball qualifying tournament in Manila.
The exploits of Joseph, a reserve National Basketball Association point guard for the Toronto Raptors, killed off a Senegalese rally that saw the Africans get to within a basket, 55-53, with less than 16 seconds left.
With their second win in two matches, the Canadians are likely to avoid France in the semi-finals on Saturday as they seek to capture the lone Rio Games slot on offer in Manila.
“It was a great game if you love defense…. They switched a lot on us which made it very difficult,” Canadian coach Jay Triano told reporters.
Real Madrid forward Maurice Ndour, who led all scorers with 16 points, converted his fourth three-point shot of the game as the shot clock expired to bring Senegal to within two and set up the dramatic finish.
But Joseph’s nerveless free-throw shooting nullified Senegal’s desperate fouling, aimed at stopping the clock.
The Africans could only manage a Clevin Finley Hannah lay-up as an answer as the game clock ran out.
Joseph’s 13 points led a balanced Canadian attack, with Milwaukee Bucks guard Ennis Tyler adding 12. Melvin Ejim pitched in with 11, along with a game-high eight rebounds.
France, the Manila tournament’s highest-ranked team, beat the hosts Philippines on Tuesday and will aim to top their group Thursday when they play New Zealand.
A win would put the French, ranked fifth in the world, in a potential semi-final against either Turkey or Senegal.
Canada, who subdued Turkey on Tuesday, are likely to face in the other semi-final the winner of the Wednesday evening match between New Zealand and the Philippines.
Australia, Argentina, Brazil, China, Lithuania, Nigeria, Spain, the United States and Venezuela have already qualified for the Rio Olympics men’s basketball tournament in August.
Two other teams will be added from the winners of the other qualifying tournaments now being held in Italy and Serbia. AFP