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Saturday, August 8, 2015
#FIBAAmericasWomen2015 - Defending champs Cuba and hosts Canada headline Group A
by: FIBA

EDMONTON (FIBA AMERICAS WOMEN) - Group A of the 2015 FIBA Americas Women’s Championship features the defending champion Cuba, the silver medalists from the 2013 and hosts Canada, along with Puerto Rico, Chile and the Dominican Republic. Although there are two clear favorites in the group, it promises to be a hard-fought battle to claim semifinal spots for the five national teams.

Canada is coming off a historic Gold medal win also at home in the Pan American Games and they are confident it will translate to the FIBA Americas. Head coach Lisa Thomaidis has decided to not make any changes to the Pan Am champs, with a roster that includes WNBA player Natalie Achonwa, NCAA champion Kia Nurse and experienced internationals Kim Gaucher, Lizanne Murphy, Tamara Tatham and Miranda Ayim.

The Canadians qualified to both the 2012 London Olympic Games and the 2014 FIBA Women’s World Championship in Turkey. Now, playing at home in front of their fans, they will be definitely hard to beat.

If there’s a team that can challenge Canada, even at home, is Cuba. The Caribbean team defeated the North Americans in a thriller 79-71 gold medal game in the 2013 edition of this FIBA Americas Women’s Championship.

And the rivalry has kept up. The teams played each other in the preliminary round of the Pan Am games and the Canadians were able to pull off the close 71-68 victory.

Cubans bring back their main players from that championship run in 2013. There’s fiery point guard Ineidis Casanova and her patient/cerebral counter-part Oyanisy Gelis, the great scoring of Yamara Amargo and the toughness of Suchitel Avila and Marlen Cepeda down low. The team started slow in the Pan Ams, but grew with each game. If that’s a signal of things to come in this 2015 FIBA Americas Women’s Championship they might be poised to upset the hosts and repeat the gold medal feat.

Puerto Rico was the team that had the puncher’s chance of beating either Canada or Cuba and advancing to the semis, but the loss of star point guard Carla Cortijo might be enough to make those chances disappear. Cortijo was about to be signed by the Atlanta Dream (of the WNBA) when the national team came calling and the USA professional team let her go. Disappointed with the situation, she has decided to sit out the tournament and Puerto Rico will miss her big.

The Caribbean team will have to depend on big performances in the tournament from also recently released WNBA point guard Jenifer O’neil, and veterans Jazmine Sepulveda and Mari Placido. A good shooting streak from center Sandra Garcia might also help. But it will be difficult for the silver medalists at last year’s Centrobasket to recover from Cortijo’s loss.

Chile arrives in Edmonton with high hopes. After relocating to the USA to train for the championship, the South American teams sees 2015’s competitionas an opportunity to break-through in a big way. With more maturity from a team that competed in the last edition of the tournament with a squad made almost entirely of teenagers, the addition of the North American arrival of Vanessa Leeper-Jones and the development of Ziomara Morrison as a leader, Chile looks to leave a mark in Edmonton.

It is the same mentality that Dominican Republic brings to the table in this FIBA Americas Championship. The Caribbeans are at a physical disadvantage with the majority of the teams in the competition, but they are fighters and will look to the veteran presence of Sugeiry Monsac and Andreina Paniagua to stay in games against the elites of the group.

The top two teams will advance to the semis with the opportunity to claim a spot to the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympic Games. It will not be easy, but it will be fun. Group A has Canada and Cuba as the teams to beat. In a seven-day tournament, a team might get hot and make a strong push to qualify. Anything is possible in such a short competition.



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