Sample ImageOver the past weekend in Cancun, Mexico, University of Manitoba Men;'s Basketball Coach and former Manitoba Provincial team coach Kirby Schepp helped lead Canada to its third consecutive bronze medal at the FIBA Americas World Qualifier.  Canada’s Cadet Men’s National Team toppled Puerto Rico 86-65, to earn the bronze medal at the FIBA Americas U16 Championship and earn a berth to the 2012 FIBA U17 World Championship for Men.  This marks the third year in a row that the National Cadet Men took the bronze at an international event and third summer for Coach Schepp on the National Team Coaching Staff.  The team will now attend the FIBA World Championships in Lithuania next summer.  

"It's been very impressive to watch this group of 14, 15 and 16 year olds play with great passion and determination in defeating Puerto Rico in a stellar defensive effort,” said Head Coach, Roy Rana. "The boys showed great Canadian toughness in the face of great preassure and adversity. It's another proud day for Canadian basketball. We're really excited to be going to Lithuinia next summer for the FIBA U17 World Championships." 

Canada controlled the game from start to finish beating the same Puerto Rico team that they lost to in the preliminary round. Using a pressure defense and putting together timely scoring runs, Canada was able to get out to a large early lead in the game and never look back. 

The Cadets would keep Puerto Rico scoreless for the first 6:42 of the game while netting 17 points. The drought would only be broken at the 3:18 mark, but Canada would end the quarter with 26-7 lead.  

Puerto Rico would come out in the second quarter to press Canada into early turnovers and would cool the CMNT’s hot shooting for the first five minutes of the period to close the gap to 26-13. However, Canada would hit back to back 3-pointers by Kevin Zabo (Gatineau, ON) and Patrick Steeves (Montreal, QC) to kick start a 10 point scoring run that would take the wind out Puerto Rico’s sails. Canada would eventually go into halftime with a 40-18 lead.

The Cadets would open the third quarter on a 13-4 run and increase their lead despite pesky resistance from Puerto Rico. Canada, who shot an impressive 47.8% from the field during the game, would put together several more scoring runs to finish the game and reclaim the bronze medal.  

Offensively, the CMNT had six players score in double figures led by Zabo’s 16 points including two threes. Steeves and Marial Shayok (Ottawa, ON) added 15 points each in the win.  

"This was one of the most important games I've played in my entire life,” said Zabo, who led the team in points in the tournament with 12.4 per game. “I'm happy we came out on top."

Defensively, Canada held the decided advantage on the boards out-rebounding Puerto Rico 56-38 to go along with eight steals and nine blocks. They were able to hold Miguel Cartagena Reyes to a mere two points; after he scored 36 in Puerto Rico's win over Canada in the preliminary round. Christopher McComber (Nepean, ON) led all players with a game-high 15 rebounds, who also had the game's only double-double with 11 points. Jordan Robinson (Toronto, ON) added 9 rebounds; while Shayok and Steeves had 7 apiece. Canada also held Puerto Rico to 33.3% from the floor and forced 15 turnovers in the impressive win.  

"I'm really happy about how we played a team game and showed great Canadian pride by never giving up,” said Robinson, who was one of Canada's defensive leaders. “I'm really excited for next summer." 

This marks the second bronze medal from a National Team this summer so far, as the Cadet Women's National Team came home with bronze a week ago in the 2011 FIBA Americas U16 Championship for Women. The win also marks the second time in a row the Cadets have come home with bronze at the FIBA Americas U16 tournament. With the win, Canada has also qualified for the 2012 FIBA U17 World Championships which will be held next summer in Lithuania.  

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