SAN JUAN — Aaron Best’s 26 point night helped Canada beat the U.S. Virgin Islands men’s team in a close fought 95-93 win in their first AmeriCup game since November.
But it was Kyle Landry who stole the show at the end. With just seconds left and the game tied at 93-93, Anthony Bennett found Landry for a buzzer beater off the backboard to lift Canada to their second win of the qualifiers.
The USVI national team thought it had a chance of winning its opening game in the third window of the FIBA AmeriCup 2022 Qualifiers on Wednesday night at Coliseo Roberto Celemente.
Best and Bennett combined for 45 of Canada’s points in the victory, while Kadre Gray added another 11. Bennett and Owen Klassen kept Canada in the game defensively with 8 rebounds each.
After a close first eight minutes, Canada took an 8 point lead to end the first quarter, leading 28-20 while shooting 60 percent from the perimeter. Bennett scored 10 of Canada’s points in the first quarter alone, with Best adding another 6.
The US Virgin Islands answered by going on a 6-0 run to start the second quarter, and out-scored Canada 26-19 to cut their deficit to 1 heading into the second half. Walter Hodge and Ivan Aska combined for 26 points in the first half, while defensively holding Bennett scoreless and keeping Best to just 5 points.
Gray added 9 points for Canada after entering the game in the second, the highest of the team during the quarter, with 6 of his points coming off fouls by the US Virgin Islands.
The third quarter saw US Virgin Islands take the lead for the first time in the game, but Canada clawed back thanks to Best adding 15 more points for Canada, shooting over 50 percent from all areas of the floor during the game including 100 percent from the free throw line.
Momentum swung in Canada’s favor, outscoring US Virgin Islands 27-23 in the third quarter to regain their lead by 5 points going into the final quarter of the game. Canada held the lead for 33 minutes of the game, while the US Virgin Islands led for just over 3.
The fourth quarter continued to be close, with neither team leading by more than 8 points. Yet Canada’s Kaza Kajami-Keane’s 9 assists also helped Canada maintain their lead during the final minutes of the match.
Though the game was tied at multiple times during the final two minutes, Walter Hodge’s 28 points, 7 assists and 5 rebounds just weren’t enough for a US Virgin Islands victory, with Ivan Aska adding 22 points, 8 rebounds and 4 assists in the loss.
Key plays for the US Virgin Islands included dominating in the paint, scoring almost double the points of their opponent as 44 of their points came from inside the key. However, The US Virgin Islands free throw shooting at 60 percent would be their downfall, with their opponent shooting 96 percent from behind the line.
Canada’s bench players would be the difference makers for their squad in the game, netting 46 points off the bench against the US Virgin Islands’ mere 11 in the win.
With Canada moving to 2-1 in Group C, they will face off with the U.S. Virgin Islands once again on February 20 at 1:30pm EST (2:30 local time).