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Canada books first OQT final seat after subduing New Zealand

By Ivan Saldajeno

PASAY—Canada heads to the championship game of the Philippine leg of the FIBA OQT with a 78-72 win against New Zealand at the Mall of Asia Arena on Saturday night.

The Canadians leaned on their defense in the final 3:39 of the game to move them to within a win from clinching a spot in the Rio Olympics.

The Tall Blacks, however, can still exit the tourney with their heads held high as they kept the game close even without Isaac Fotu, who hurt his leg early in the second quarter.

New Zealand actually had a huge chance of scoring an upset after taking a 66-64 lead with 6:04 to go in the game.

But a 5-0 run by Canada put the team up, 69-66, with 4:35 left.

Rob Loe tied the game with a triple, and the game remained tied for nearly a minute.

Canada finally broke away with six straight points and kept New Zealand scoreless in a 3:20 span of the game's last 3:39.

Cory Joseph led the Canadians, who will face the winner of the other semifinal between France and Turkey, which is ongoing as of posting, in the Sunday night final, with 20 points, five rebounds, four assists, and two steals.

In his best outing so far, Tristan Thompson added 13 points on 4-of-5 field goals and ten rebounds.

Melvin Ejim also made an impression with 13 points, seven rebounds, one assist, two blocks, and one steal.

Corey and Tai Webster led the Kiwis with 21 and 15 markers respectively even as Thomas Abercrombie added 16.

Box Scores:

Canada 78-Joseph 20, Thompson 13, Ejim 13, Bennett 9, P. Scrubb 6, Birch 6, T. Scrubb 5, Ennis 4, Heslip 2

New Zealand 72-C. Webster 21, Abercrombie 16, T. Webster 15, Vukona 6, Loe 6, Ili 5, Fotu 3, Bartlett 0, Ngatai 0

Quarterscores: 23-25, 42-42, 58-54, 78-72

Follow him on Twitter: @IvanSaldajeno