PUERTO MONTT (2011 FIBA U19 World Championship for Women) – With warm-up game victories over France and Russia, Asian champions China are a team to watch at the FIBA U19 World Championship for Women.
In their first game of the tournament, it was clear Canada had been watching their Group A rivals closely.
“We decided we had to disrupt them and not let them get into their offence, almost make them play freelance, and the girls did a tremendous job of it,” said Canada coach Rich Chambers after his team blew China away, 76-49.
”It was a real focus with China because they run their sets so well, every time we looked at a tape of them they had a new set.”
Leading the North Americans' full court pressure defence from the front was point guard Diana Lee, who just finished an outstanding freshman year at Boise State University in the USA.
“We really wanted to disrupt their offence and make sure they only got one shot,” she said after scoring 13 points and claiming 3 steals in the victory.
Canada burst out of the blocks, leading 23-6 at quarter time and 41-16 at half time after forcing 14 Chinese turnovers across the two periods. The Canadians themselves handed the ball over 12 times for the entire game, and much of that was to do with the steady play of Lee, who also nailed 3/5 shots from beyond the arc.
“I just try to lead the team from the point guard position, and if I get the chance then I try and knock down a few shots,” she said. “But mostly I just try and keep the team organised as a point guard.”
While Lee’s offence was effective, it was her defence alongside fellow guards Nirra Fields, Korissa Williams and Megan Lukan that largely decided this contest as China regularly struggled to get the ball up-court. The four guards are an impressive team within the team.
“I have never thought of it like that, but it kind of is. We have our sessions that only guards talk about so yeah, I guess we are,” Lee said. “If we stick to our defence, I think we can go as far as we want, but we have to keep working and stick to our plan no matter what.”
While the Canadians have a few tricks up their sleeve, including their versatile big players, the swarming pressure defence is here to stay according to their coach Chambers. “We just rotated people through. It’s a long tournament and hopefully we will play for nine days in this tournament and we just want to make sure we have some fresh legs.
“Our girls are strong, and they’re smart so I think we can put great pressure on most teams,” Chambers said while admitting it will be much harder work against the tournament’s best teams.
“Our bigs did a great job on the boards today, a great job. I think that’s our strength (our bigs) play inside and outside and they’re very smart. Their high school coaches and university coaches have done a great job with them and we are privileged to have them on the team.”