Former Kalamalka Laker Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe helped Canada post an 81-73 victory over the U.S. Monday at Ryerson University’s Mattamy Athletic Centre in Toronto.
A few clutch free throws helped ensure the gold medal for the first time in Canadian women’s basketball history at the Pan American Games. It was the first gold by a senior men’s or women’s team in any major international competition.
“I might break into tears,” said Lizanne Murphy, an eight-year national team veteran. “I can’t even describe the feeling. Playing for your country, winning at home with this crowd, it’s like no other feeling.”
In the final, Raincock-Ekunwe grabbed a defensive rebound during her 2:18 on the floor.
The Canadians led by as many as 17 points in front of a feverish crowd of about 3,300 flag-waving fans.
The U.S. pulled within five points twice in the fourth quarter, and trailed 78-73 with 18 seconds left.
Canada was led by Kia Nurse who poured in 33 points and Natali Achonwa scored 13 for Canada.
Raincock-Ekunwe attended Simon Fraser University from 2009-13 and will play for TSV 1880 Wasserburg (Germany) this fall after starring for BG Donau-Ries Angels in Nordlingen, Germany.
Raincock-Ekunwe, 23, chipped in seven points and three rebounds in 13 minutes in Canada’s semi-final 91-63 victory over Brazil on Sunday.
She scored her tournament-high 11 points to go with four rebounds in 15 minutes in Canada’s opening game versus Venezuela. The Canadians thumped Venezuela 101-38 on July 18.
The women’s previous best was a silver at the 1999 Games in Winnipeg.
Canada sits in second place in the medal standings with 152. They have won 57 gold, 51 silver and 44 bronze medals
Next up, Raincock-Ekunwe and the national team head to the FIBA Americas Olympic qualification tournament in Edmonton in August, for a trip to the Rio Olympics. There are 10 countries competing.