Junior women -- a "special group" -- are on some kind of roll
Rich Chambers in on a scratchy telephone line from Chile but the sense of accomplishment comes through loud and clear.
“I can’t tell you how proud I am,” the coach of Canada’s under-19 women’s basketball team says.
Chambers had minutes earlier seen Canada beat the United States 64-52 in the final second-round game at the world Under-19 world championships, a victory of historic proportions for the national program.
“In your career you might get four or five teams that you really remember, you don’t get it too often, but this is one of those teams.”
Canada has won six straight games at the world championships – an unprecedented streak for a men’s or women’s team – and now advances to Friday’s single-elimination quarter-finals at the 16-team tournament.
But regardless of what happens from here on out, this has been a run that’s cemented the Canadian women’s program as one that’s on the rise.
“This is a special group of girls,” said Chambers, the head coach of the highly-accomplished University of Victoria Vikings.
“We’ve got a lot of highly-skilled players who’ve been trained and coached well by their clubs and college teams.”
Michelle Plouffe, a 6-3 centre from Edmonton, led Canada with 24 points in the win; Wumi Agubiade, a 6-2 power forward from Pickering, added 15.
Chambers, though, singled out guard Korissa Williams of Amherstburg, as perhaps the player of the game.
“She basically controlled and shut down the best point guard in the United States,” the coach said. “Her performance was unbelievable.”
If there’s been a trademark for this Canadian team, it’s an aggressive and effective halfcourt defence. The young women have held opponents to under 40 per cent shooting in each of their first six games and have been lauded as the best defensive team in the tournament.
“They’ve been really well coached,” said Chambers.
Canada now advances to the knockout round comprising eight teams and their opponent Friday – Thursday is an off-day for the medal round participants – is still to be determined.
“All eight teams (in the quarter-finals) are really equal and anyone could win,” said Chambers. “But they’ll always have this one to remember.”