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FIBA Americas Women - Cuba crowned champions, relieved Brazil head to Turkey 2014
XALAPA (FIBA Americas Championship for Women/FIBA World Championship for Women) - Surprise package Cuba have won continental bragging rights after being crowned 2013 FIBA Americas Championship for Women Champions in Xalapa, whilst jubilant Brazil exhaled a collective sigh of relief after grabbing bronze and taking the last remaining spot on offer for the 2014 FIBA World Championship for Women.
The ecstatic Cubans held off a late Canadian rally inspired by 25 point-Tamara Tatham to claim a 79-71 win and land their second title in eight years, having last won in Hato Mayor, Dominican Republic during 2005.
The victory was built on some excellent offensive work in the first half, as Cuba found little difficulty in regularly breaching the usually imperious Canadian defence which had been the foundation for their five straight wins heading into the gold medal game.
Indeed when Ineidis Casanova made it 45-26 just before the midway point of the game, it looked a long way back for Canada. The last two scores of the half gave the Canadians fresh impetus for when they returned to the hardwood, but they didn’t seriously threaten to complete a comeback until the last quarter.
With Tatham outstanding and leading the revival, a fast-break score by Justine Colley made it 66-62 heading towards crunch time, but Cuba didn’t wobble any further and held firm.
Oyanaisy Gelis effectively iced the game with just under 90 seconds left at 70-62, before Cuba calmly sunk a flurry of free-throws to make sure.
Gelis finished with 19 points, Marlen Cepeda did great work on the glass with 12 boards, but the main performer for the gold medal winners was Clenia Noblet with an efficient 16 points. Meanwhile in addition to top-scoring in the Final, the terrific Tatham also led Canada in rebounds and assists.
Earlier in the day, Brazil bounced back from their shock defeat in the Semi-finals against Cuba to take the bronze medal with a hard-fought 66-56 success against Puerto Rico to maintain their proud tradition of being an almost ever-present at the FIBA World Championship for Women.
The Brazilians will line up with Cuba and Canada in Turkey next year after taking their second chance, mainly via a strong display in the second quarter, when they outscored their opponents 20-9.
That had them in the ascendancy at the interval with a double-digit lead at 38-27 and as hard as Puerto Rico tried after the break to erase the deficit, they couldn’t bridge the gap – despite Jazmine Sepulveda coming alive with 21 points in the game.
Tatiane Pacheco Nascimiento was on-fire for Brazil from downtown and finished with 18 points after a perfect shooting display from long-range.
The 22 year old small forward dropped five triples and was well supported by Clarissa Dos Santos, who weighed in with a fine double-double of 15 points and 12 rebounds to ensure Brazil claimed that precious last podium position.