Six-foot-nine centre Wei Wei was dominant at both ends of the court as China beat host Canada 67-51 in an exhibition women’s basketball game Thursday.
Teresa Gabrielle of Mission, B.C., was Canada’s best player, scoring 13 points along with an impressive eight steals, but Canada couldn’t overcome the towering presence of Wei.
Wei poured in 12 points and was a force in the paint, grabbing seven rebounds along with three blocked shots as China, ranked seventh in the world, took the second of three exhibition games in three days against Canada in the B.C. Lower Mainland.
Zengyu Ma was named China’s player of the game with 14 points to go along with a rebound and two steals.
Canada head coach Allison McNeill bemoaned her team’s lack of offensive execution as Canada shot just 20 for 51 from the floor.
“I definitely felt our execution was not where it should be,” McNeill said.
“We did not shoot it as well and some credit has to go to China, they played extremely well defensively. We missed a couple layups we should have made and I think at this level you can’t miss them.”
The eighth annual Jack Donohue International Classic is serving as a warmup for Canada as the team readies itself for a qualifying tournament beginning June 25 in Turkey as a last ditch-effort to gain entry into the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
Saskatoon’s Kristin Phillips was again charged with defending Wei and had a strong game for Canada, scoring eight points, but could not contain her when she stepped out on the floor.
Guard Alisha Tatham of Brampton, Ont., and forward Natalie Achonwa of Guelph, Ont., fresh off her season with the NCAA’s Notre Dame Fighting Irish, scored 10 points each.
Canada was up 19-14 at the end of the first quarter and held the lead for much of the first half.
The teams entered the half with China up 32-29. Canada shot 50 per cent in the first half while China edged them slightly, connecting on 54 per cent of its shots.
Things slipped away in the third quarter as Canada ran into trouble in the paint, unable to penetrate a smothering Chinese defence.
“It was difficult, they kind of collapsed on us in the paint and forced us to hit outside shots and we didn’t hit outside shots so that makes it difficult,” Gabriele said.
“When you penetrate you have someone big to shoot over so you have to penetrate and kick it out and hopefully somebody is hitting an outside shot. Offensively we need to execute better. I think out defensive intensity slipped a little bit tonight so we have to focus on that.”
Canada ended the night shooting 1-10 from three point range.
With veteran forward Kim Smith in street clothes with an injured thumb, China took a 53-43 lead into the fourth quarter. They were up by as many 15 before Canada mounted a comeback, trimming the deficit to five on a fast break layup by Achonwa with just over three minutes to play.
China then roared back to take a 13-point lead with just over a minute to play.
“Obviously we’re disappointed we didn’t win tonight but I think we’re more disappointed we didn’t come out and play the way that we know we can,” said Smith, who was Canada’s player of the game in the series opener.
McNeill said the Mission native’s absence hurt the team but that it wasn’t an excuse. She also said the final outcome wasn’t the most important aspect of the game or even the series.
“It’s absolutely not the most important thing. It’s sometimes a hard thing for North Americans to understand,” she said. “It’s not important the score right now. What is important is executing the game plan that’s going to be successful for us in Turkey. Today we did that for half and then we did not do that in the second half.”
The team will hold another camp in June and play further exhibition games in France and England before heading to Turkey where they will join Group D along with France and Mali.
China finished fourth a the 2008 Beijing Olympics and has already qualified for the upcoming London games.
Canada failed to qualify in last September’s FIBA Americas championships but managed to nail down a spot in the upcoming qualifier. They must finish in the top three to earn an Olympic birth, their first since the 2000 Sydney Games.
The final game of the series goes Friday night in Abbotsford, B.C. at the University of the Fraser Valley.
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