Kyle Landry picked the right time to make an impact on the game.
Aaron Best scored 28 points and Landry scored the winning basket — on his only shot of the game — at the buzzer as Canada beat the U.S. Virgin Islands 95-93 on Wednesday in FIBA AmeriCup 2022 qualifying.
“As soon as it went in, I was watching the clock because I wasn’t sure when the buzzer was going to sound,” Landry said. “I heard [the buzzer] sound and I just, I was happy.
“It was a good feeling. It was a win. The most important thing is we got that win.”
WATCH | Landry beats buzzer to give Canada victory:
Veteran forward Anthony Bennett added 17 points and eight rebounds for Canada (2-1) in a much-needed group phase victory.
Walter Hodge led the U.S. Virgin Islands (1-3) with 28 points. Ivan Aska added 22 points and eight rebounds before fouling out.
Bennett came out strong with 10 points in the first six minutes of the game, with the big man from Toronto connecting on 2-of-3 three-point attempts before subbing out.
Canada went up by eight points after one quarter only to have its lead cut to one by halftime after a strong second from the U.S. Virgin Islands made it 47-46 at the break.
Best came off the bench to lead Canada with 11 points in the half.
<a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/AmeriCup?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#AmeriCup</a> <br><br>Tough game and close victory from <a href=”https://twitter.com/CanBball?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@CanBball</a> 🇨🇦 95-93 over Virgin Islands 🇻🇮, in this <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/AmeriCup2022?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#AmeriCup2022</a> Qualifiers third window. <a href=”https://t.co/ii9HvzYIvj”>pic.twitter.com/ii9HvzYIvj</a>
The two nations opened the second half by trading baskets, until Best took over the game for the Canadians.
Best, a Toronto native who plays for French club Boulazac, capped a 15-point quarter by hitting back-to-back threes to give Canada its biggest lead since the opening frame at 72-64.
Aska kept his team hanging around early in the fourth before picking up a charge and a technical to foul out with 6:40 to go, and a Phil Scrubb three put Canada up 84-75 the next time down the court.
But the game was far from over.
Hodge took control, and an And-1 finish from Romani Hansen tied the game 88-88 with 2:25 to play before Hodge put the U.S. Virgin Islands ahead on its next possession.
Hodge kept his hot hand and hit a three with 54 seconds to play for a 93-90 edge only for Scrubb to answer with one of his own.
WATCH | The legacy of basketball in Canada:
Landry, who saw 10:19 of court time off the bench, broke a 93-93 tie with his only field-goal attempt of the game, taking a pass from Bennett low in the key and finishing the play as the buzzer sounded.
“I got the loose ball at the top of the key and I had to channel my No. 7 Team Canada Steve Nash,” Bennett said. “I saw Kyle underneath the basket, I had to throw him a dime pass and he finished it. Just like that.”
Rematch on Saturday
The Canadians are being coached by Gordie Herbert at the Feb. 17-21 tournament at Coliseo Roberto Clemente in San Juan.
Canada will close out its only games of the February qualifying window when it faces the U.S. Virgin Islands again on Saturday.
“It was a roller-coaster ride,” Best said. “It was ugly but, a win’s a win. Hats off to Virgin Islands, they’re a tough team. A tough, tough team.”
Canada withdrew from qualifying games against Cuba and the U.S. Virgin Islands in the Dominican Republic in late November because participating would have contradicted Canada’s health, safety and travel recommendations around COVID-19.
FIBA fined Canada Basketball 160,000 Swiss francs ($227,138) and docked the team a point in the standings for withdrawing, but said half of the fine and loss of the standing point would be erased if Canada played in the final window this week in Puerto Rico.
Canada Basketball’s appeal to FIBA over the remaining fine is still ongoing, according to a Canada Basketball spokesperson.
The AmeriCup qualifiers feature 16 teams from the Americas zone divided into four groups of four teams who play each other twice. The top three in each group qualify for the 2022 FIBA AmeriCup.