CANADA eked out a close 58-55 win over a hard-fighting Senegal side and became the first team to book a semis berth in the Fiba Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Manila on Wednesday night.
The Canadians controlled the game from the get-go, but never really put away the pesky Senegalese until Clevin Finley Hannah missed a potential game-tying three-pointer at the final buzzer.
It was the second straight win for Canada after they turned back Turkey on opening day, 77-69, to emerge as the top team in Group A.
For the second straight game, Joseph led Canada, ranked 26th in the world, with 13 points, but left the door open for a possible overtime play when he split his free throws with 3.9 seconds left and a 58-55 Canada lead.
Fortunately for them, Senegal botched its final play as Hannah’s game-tying, three-point attempt didn’t even touch the rim to the disappointment of the crowd at the Mall of Asia Arena which repeatedly cheered the Senegalese, the lowest-ranked team among the six competing in the Manila leg of the qualifier.
“Both teams were good defensively. Senegal coach did a good job of taking away a lot of our transition plays and three-point shots,” said Canada mentor Howard James Triano.
Canada now takes a two-day rest and awaits which team it will play in the semifinals set Saturday.
Maurice Ndour led the debuting Senegalese with 16 points.
Senegal played catch-up for most of the game, but gave itself a shot for an upset after Maleye Ndoye hit a three-pointer with 2:56 left to close within 51-50.
Joseph, the guard from the Toronto Raptors, then scored four of the Canadians next six points, including two free throws to make it 57-52.
But with the crowd behind them, the Senegalese had one fight left in them, nailing another one from downtown to close the gap anew at 57-55.
“We never gave up, and I’m always thankful for the players for showing that we could always win the game,” said Senegal coach Diego Porfirio de Fisac.
Ndour was grateful for the support that crowd gave to the Senegalese in their first outing in the country.
“That was really incredible. We didn’t expect it at all,” he said. “That really kind us get into the game.
Canada (58) – Joseph 13, Ennis 12, Ejim 11, Thompson 7, Bennett 7, P. Scrubb 2, T. Scrubb 2, Heslip 0.
Senegal (55) – Ndour 16, Hannah 13, Ndoye 6, Mbodj 6, Thomas 5, Ndiaye 4, Adams 3, Niang 2, E. Ndiaye 0, Mendy 0, Gueye 0.
Quarterscores: 22-20; 33-28; 47-42; 58-55