Canada falls 84-76 to Venezuela in basketball World Cup qualifying

Venezuela 84 Canada 76

CARACAS, Venezuela — Canada suffered a setback in its bid to qualify for the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup after dropping an 84-76 decision to Venezuela on Friday.

Venezuela (8-1) took sole possession of qualifying Group F with the win. Canada fell to second place at 7-1, but still looks like a strong contender to advance with two of its final three qualifying games at home.

Jose Vargas paced Venezuela with 15 points on 6-of-13 shooting and 2 of 4 on three-pointers. Venezuela had five other scorers in double digits, including: Dwight Lewis (14), Gregory Vargas (13), Jhornan Zamora (12), as well as Gregory Echenique and Nestor Colmenares both with 10.

Kyle Wiltjer led Canada with a game-high 21 points on 8-of-18 shooting, while Phil Scrubb and Brady Heslip added 16 and 14, respectively. Joel Anthony hauled in 10 rebounds and chipped in 11 points.

Canada went into halftime deadlocked with Venezuela at 37 points apiece, but they were outscored 47-39 across the final two quarters.

Canadian head coach Roy Rana said he has been impressed with his team’s fight despite Friday’s result.

“Incredibly proud of our guys as we battled through incredible adversity just to make the game,” he said.

“We all understand this is not a one-game qualification, but part of a larger process. On to the next and we’ll continue to battle for our country.”

Canada, which no longer has NBA players at its disposal for qualifying games, heads to Sao Paolo to face Brazil on Dec. 3. It will play its final two contests at Mile One Centre in St. John’s, N.L., on Feb. 21 versus Chile and Feb. 24 against Venezuela.

At the culmination of the second round, the three highest-placed teams from each group, and the top fourth-placed team between Group E and Group F qualify for the FIBA Basketball World Cup in China, Aug. 31-Sept. 15.

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