LONDON – Chelsea Aubry has waited an awfully long time for that three-point shot.
Aubry, the Kitchener native who is a 10-year veteran of Canada’s women’s basketball team, drained an arching jump shot a minute into the Canadians’game against Russia Saturday, on the opening day of women’s basketball at the Olympics.
Aubry’s three-pointer sparked a big Canadian run that ended with the Canucks up 30-24 at half-time. But the Russians exploded in the final quarter of the game, going on an 18-point rally that handed the Canadians a 58-53 loss.
“This was our game to win,” said a deflated Aubry after the game. “We could have beaten them, but we let it get away.”
The loss took some of the shine off Aubry’s big shot early in the game – the first point the Canadian team has scored since it was last at the Olympics in 2000.
“It was nice to get. We were a little back on our heels to start the game,” she said.
After Russia got off to a quick start, leading by eight points early in the first quarter, Canada’s defence seemed to shake off its nerves. Russia didn’t sink a single three point shot in the first half, while the Canadians responded with five of their own.
Key blocks in the first half by Guelph’s Natalie Achonwa in the Canadian end shut down the frustrated Russians, who looked lost at times to solve the Canadian defenders. Achonwa was a key play maker, getting physical under the net and recording three assists.
But the Russians started scoring when it counted, led by American-born Becky Hammon who scored 14, including eight down the stretch. Hammon, a six-time WNBA all-star, became a Russian naturalized citizen before the Beijing Games, helping Russia earn the bronze medal in 2008.
“We had it in our hands. Something we’re really good at, defence, we kind of lost track of a few players, and they punished us,” said Canada’s Kim Smith, who led the team with 20 points.
The loss stings because it showed holes in Canada’s strength – its defence – but the women will bounce back, the tall guard said.
“It’s going to hurt more,” Smith said. “But we’ll debrief, we’ll talk about this, and as soon as we get back to the village, this one is over. It’s a long tournament.”
Smith, Canada’s most offensive weapon, lived up to her billing. In Canada’s strong first half, she had three three-pointers as part of her 12-point effort before the break.
The Russians stayed calm late in the game and drew timely fouls from the Canadians when it really mattered, said head coach Allison McNeill.
“Russia showed their experience down the stretch,” she said.
No.11-ranked Canada came into the game as underdogs to the No. 3-ranked Russia. But they showed they can hold their own with the best in the world, she said.
“We know we’re a good team. The rest of the world might not know it yet,” Smith said “But we’re here and we’re ready to compete.”
Canada plays its second game at the Olympics on Monday against host Great Britain. That game goes at 3 p.m. ET. and will be broadcast on Sportsnet.