GWANGJU, South Korea (Team Canada) – Canada had to grind out a win over a scrappy Montenegro squad, and relied on centre Chris McLaughlin (University of Victoria) down the stretch to pull out a 66-63 victory in the men's basketball tournament on Monday. The win moves Canada's record to 3-0 with two preliminary round games remaining.
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The win moves Canada's record to 3-0 with two preliminary round games remaining.
Down by four with two minutes to play, McLaughlin hit a corner three to pull within one at 60-59. Johnny Berhanemeskel (Ottawa, Ont.) responded in kind when Montenegro's leading scorer Radosav Spasojevic drained a three from the top. Canada then got a defensive stop and worked the ball down low to McLaughlin who stepped to the line and hit two free throws to make it 64-63.
Montenegro had a chance to retake the lead but missed two free throws. Edmonton, Alta., product Jordan Baker hit his final two free throws, Montenegro missed a last-second three-point effort and McLaughlin secured the rebound to send the Canadians celebrating.
"That's a tough veteran team and a hard fought character win for our guys," said Canadian head coach Barnaby Craddock. "Our guys care about playing for Canada and they care about playing for each other and that's how we were able to grind out a win down the stretch."
Baker led Canada with 21 points and six rebounds, and it was his aggressive takes to the rim that kept the Canucks alive after Montenegro overcame a 22-8 deficit and swarmed the Canadians with a zone defense. At halftime the score stood at 33-33 and in the second half neither team could establish a lead larger than four.
"We need the size, athleticism and leadership that Jordan brings from his European team," added Craddock, who coached Baker for two seasons at the University of Alberta before he signed a professional contract in Germany. "A lot of the guys on this team come from winning programs and you could see that class coming through at the end."
Canada will continue preliminary play with a game against Mongolia (0-3) on July 8 after enjoying a day off on Tuesday.