Canada falls to Venezuela in Rio Games qualifier at FIBA Americas
Canada's Cory Joseph looks to shoot under pressure from Venezuela's Gregory Vargas, left centre, and Windi Graterol, right, during a FIBA Americas Championship basketball game in Mexico City, Friday, Sept. 11, 2015. (Eduardo Verdugo/AP Photo)
The Canadian Press
Published Friday, September 11, 2015 9:01PM EDT
Last Updated Saturday, September 12, 2015 9:31AM EDT
MEXICO CITY -- The Canadian men's basketball team will have to take the long road to Rio.
Canada failed to earn a berth in the 2016 Olympic Games after falling to Venezuela 79-78 on Friday in the semifinals of the FIBA Americas championship.
"It was a very difficult game against a team that played well," said Canadian head coach Jay Triano. "We played the tournament at a high level, but we didn't tonight."
The Canadians will now play for bronze against Mexico, which lost 78-70 to Argentina in the other semifinal. A last-chance qualifying tournament will be held next year.
Venezuela coach Nestor Garcia said his players believed in themselves.
"Canada is a great team, but we thought that a big one can fall. It was David versus Goliath and we came on top, we leave everything out there," said Venezuela coach Nestor Garcia. "This is a historic day for Venezuela. Many people doubted that we were capable of this. I'm proud of this team."
Tied 78-78, the game looked to be headed to overtime, but Canada's Aaron Doornekamp picked up a loose ball foul with less than second remaining in regulation that sent Jose Vargas to the line for two free throws. Vargas hit the first and intentionally missed the second, leaving the Canadian side no time on the clock to return the ball up the floor for a final shot.
Kelly Olynyk had 34 points and 13 rebounds for the Canadian team that missed a big opportunity to return to its first Olympics since 2000. Andrew Wiggins had nine points for Canada, which will have another shot next year during the world qualifying tournament.
"Canada's dream has been deferred," said Triano. "This team will continue to grow..."
The Canadians had won seven straight games after dropping their tournament opener to Argentina, including a convincing 82-62 victory over Venezuela in first-round play.
"They scored important baskets in key moments and we had a hard time stopping that," Olynyk said of the semifinal.
Canada needed to advance to Saturday's championship match to qualify for the Rio Games through the FIBA Americas.
Windi Graterol led Venezuela with 20 points while Heissler Guillent added 19 -- including eight in the final minutes of the fourth quarter.
In the other semifinal, Toronto Raptors off-season signing Luis Scola had 18 points and 10 rebounds for Argentina, and Facundo Campazzo added 15 points.
Argentina reached the Olympics for the fourth straight time, advancing with a team featuring only two members of the teams that won the gold medal in 2004 and a bronze in 2008.
Jorge Gutierrez scored 17 points for Mexico.