XALAPA, Mexico – Shona Thorburn scored 15 points to lead Canada’s women’s basketball team to its second straight lopsided victory at the FIBA Americas Championship, a 93-51 rout of Chile on Monday.
The easy back-to-back wins, said Thorburn, have provided the perfect opportunity for the team to gel before the games get tough.
“It’s the first time these 12 players have played together this summer, so these few easy games have been very beneficial for us,” said Thorburn, who was sidelined for most of the summer with a foot injury.
“We’ve taken them as a learning experience, getting to know each other, the last two games we’ve been able to work on zone offence because they played zone on us, so I think it’s helped us.
“I think the plan is to be peaking in that final game.”
Kim Gaucher (formerly Kim Smith) finished with 11 points, and a team-high six rebounds and three steals, while Justine Colley also had 11 points.
The Canadians, who cruised by Jamaica 75-37 in their opener on Sunday, are tied with Cuba atop Group A.
They had their way with Chile, racing out to a 28-10 lead after one quarter and taking a 49-19 advantage into the dressing room at halftime. Canada led 66-41 with a quarter left to play.
Coach Lisa Thomaidis said there is a danger in opening the tournament with easy wins.
“There’s always that fear when you haven’t been tested yet,” Thomaidis said. “But it’s really about us right now, and really challenging ourselves to keep raising the level of our play. Certainly as long as we keep holding ourselves to those high standards, I think regardless of the opponent we’re still going to be on track.
“The way the tournament is set up, I think teams are going to be progressively tougher for us to face, so it’s very good lead-in for us to play those tougher opponents having these few games under our belt.”
As Canada’s veterans, Thorburn said she and Gaucher — who had originally planned on retiring after the 2012 London Olympics but had a change of heart — said their job has been to keep everyone focused through these two easy games.
“This is the Americas, people are coming out to get you,” Thorburn said. “We play aggressive basketball down here compared to anywhere else in the world. Every team does, that’s just how it is down there.
“So it’s just keeping people focused for 40 minutes. Usually in the past, we’re good at playing 35 minutes, but the game is 40 minutes long and it’s kind of keeping people focused that long. I think Kim and I bring that, we bring a competitive edge, and every practice, every shootaround, every game, we go hard.
“We want to get better and I think we have brought that to this team and they understand that’s the way it’s going to be.”
The lopsided games have given Thomaidis the chance to rest some key players and get everyone involved.
“We’re playing six games in seven days, and four games in a row without a break,” Thomaidis said. “That’s taxing. It’s a very physical game, the international game, and it’s really important that we keep people fresh and we’re not playing them long minutes in the first few games because we’re going to need them down the road here.”
The Canadians face Venezuela on Tuesday, then wrap up round-robin play versus Cuba on Wednesday.
Chile, with previous losses to Venezuela and Cuba, dropped to 0-3 on the tournament.
Canada needs to finish in the top three in order to qualify for the 2014 FIBA world championship. The Canadian women have appeared in the previous two world tournaments, in 2006 and 2010.