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FIBA Americas Women - Brazil, Canada and Puerto Rico join Cuba in Semis with games to spare
XALAPA (FIBA Americas Championship for Women/FIBA World Championship for Women) - With a day still remaining in the First Round of the 2013 FIBA Americas Championship for Women, the line-up for the Semi-Finals has already been finalised after Brazil, Canada and Puerto Rico ensured their progression to join Cuba, who had already booked their spot on Monday.
There was unbridled joy for Puerto Rico in particular, who progressed without having to even bounce a ball in anger.
They watched a crestfallen Argentina slip to a 69-60 loss against Brazil in what was a must-win game for Cristian Santander and his players, who were also left lamenting their defeat at the hands of Puerto Rico earlier in the tournament.
The victory sent Brazil marching onwards, although it was far from straightforward in an intriguing roller-coaster contest.
There had been little to separate the teams during most of the first half, a Karla Da Costa triple allowing Brazil to put their noses in front at 22-21 and also helping establish a six-point lead at the break.
When Brazil then opened up a double-digit lead in the third quarter, it looked like the dreams of Argentina were slipping away, but they rallied in impressive fashion and looked like they might complete a super comeback when Gisela Vega put them ahead 59-57 in the last quarter.
But the Brazilians managed to regain their composure and make the free-throws they needed to stay perfect.
Vega racked up 23 points in defeat and won't achieve her aim of stepping out at the FIBA World Championship for Women for a third time, whilst Damiris Dantas and Nadia Colhado headlined for the winning team by each landing a double-double, the former going for 14 points and 13 rebounds and the latter harvesting 10 points and 11 boards.
Canada breezed into the Semis courtesy of another comprehensive success as they powered their way to an 89-45 victory over Venezuela to make it three wins from three games and set up a mouthwatering clash for top spot in Group A with Cuba in their last game of the First Round.
On top from the outset after a 21-8 lead after one quarter, Canada were merciless and continued to keep their foot on the accelerator, even in the last quarter when they outscored their opponents 29-6.
Kia Nurse, Kimberley Gaucher and Natalie Achonwa had a dozen points each, but Kendel Ross was particularly impressive with 16 points.
Only Waleska Perez scored in double digits for Venezuela with 13 points.
The Dominican Republic and Chile belatedly found their first wins, with Chile signing off their participation in the tournament with a crushing 74-56 win against Jamaica, although it is unlikely to have brought much cheer having lost their first three games.
And Chile were erratic despite the victory, only managing one basket in the first 10 minutes as their offense deserted them, although 56 points across the middle two quarters made up for their early shortcomings.
Ziomara Morrison finished one rebound short of her customary double-double after sinking 20 points, whilst Shenneika Smith top scored for Jamaica with 14 points.
Dominican Republic picked up a hard-fought 84-77 win against Mexico to leave the disappointed hosts win-less and with a daunting match-up against Brazil to come in their last game.
Andreina Paniagua was the hero for Dominican Republic with a precious 20 points, something which was essential with Alexis Castro again trying her best to inspire Mexico with a game-high 25 points.
It was a one-shot game as the teams went to the locker rooms at half-time, but Mexico play-caller Ray Santana could only watch in despair as Dominican Republic produced a 29-17 third period to take a comprehensive grip of the game and it proved to be one they would not relinquish.
For full and in-depth coverage of the 2013 FIBA Americas Championship for Women, go to the official website http://www.xalapa2013.com.
FRANK UIJLENBROEK WORLDSPORTPICS
21. August 71
FRANK UIJLENBROEK WORLDSPORTPICS