HERAKLION, Greece — A.J. Lawson announced his intentions just three seconds into Wednesday’s game with an emphatic dunk.
The 18-year-old from Brampton, Ont., finished with 31 points, seven rebounds and four assists to lead Canada to a 90-79 victory over Senegal, and into the quarterfinals of the FIBA Under-19 World Cup.
Damion Squire chipped in with 18 points, three rebounds, four assists and two steals, while Charles Bediako had 10 points and six rebounds for the Canadians, who face France in Friday’s quarter-finals.
The No. 2-ranked Canadians are the defending World Cup champions after RJ Barrett led the team to gold two years ago in Cairo, Egypt.
Lawson’s dunk was the first of eight straight points by the shooting guard, who’ll play for South Carolina Gamecocks next season. He closed the first quarter with a three-pointer that put Canada up 23-18 heading into the second.
The Canadians stretched their lead to seven in the second quarter of Wednesday’s Round of 16 game. Senegal battled back to take the lead but it was short-lived, and Canada went into the halftime break up 40-38.
Lawson opened the second half with another big dunk to spark a Canadian run that saw them go up by 15 points twice before carrying a 70-59 advantage into the final frame.
Biram Faye had a big game with 30 points, 15 rebounds and three blocks for Senegal.
Canada’s victory at the U19 tournament two years ago was the country’s first title at an international FIBA competition, and their highest finish since a fifth-place in 2015.