Canada beat Panama 112-71 on Sunday evening at the Edmonton Expo Centre to remain unbeaten in their FIBA World Cup qualifying campaign.
Panamanian coach Flor Melendez Montanez said he was happy that the Panamanians were able to keep the Canadians close for a quarter-and-a-half, but after that, “they just destroyed us.”
Canada, now 10-0, had qualified for the 2023 FIBA World Cup on Thursday with an emphatic win over Venezuela. Canada is the only undefeated team in the Americas. It’s something that the basketball giants from the United States, Brazil or Argentina can’t boast about.
“It says a lot about Team Canada,” said associate head coach Nate Bjorkgren. “And, I’ll tell you this: We talk about 10 of them, and we’ve had the same approach for every single one of them. … The focus, the continuity of this group, they come right in and I wish we could be together longer. It goes really quick.”
Panama moves to 2-8, and is at the bottom of the qualifying group.
Veteran Panamanian guard Trevor Gaskins, who grew up in the United States and played college ball with Ole Miss, said his team could learn a lot from how Canada dismantled them.
“Coach said in the locker room, even though they were up by 30 or 40, they were playing as a team and running the system and the things that they’ve worked on. It’s so they can be better in the future or play in the World Cup. So I think [Panama’s players] can take from that, to see how you need to play with intensity, to see how you need to play hard.”
After the game, Bjorkgren had high praise for Best, who won a CEBL title in 2022 with the Hamilton Honey Badgers.
“We ask him to run the floor, we ask him to crash the glass, he shoots the three, he does everything a coach wants him to do and a team wants him to do. He’s always making the right play.”