LONDON (Olympics) - Canada beat Brazil
79-73 to secure their place into the Quarter-Finals of the Olympic Basketball Tournament for Women.
As a result, they are assured of registering their best finish in the competition since they came in fourth at the 1984 Los Angeles Games.
The win saw Allison McNeill's side improve to 2-2 in Group B of the Preliminary Round and they will finish no worse than fourth in the pool as they hold the tie-breaker over Great Britain and Brazil after having beaten both teams.
"It's a great feeling. Just to represent your country is a great honour. But to exceed expectations from the outside (Canada is 11th in the FIBA World Ranking Women) and know we will finish in the top eight is great. This can help our young teams. This is great momentum for Canada Basketball," said shooting guard Courtnay Pilypaitis who had 14 points in the win.
This is particularly sweet for team captain Teresa Gabriele who featured last time Canada played in the Olympics, back in 2000.
"It's an amazing feeling. We have a good mix of veterans and younger players. We've come together in the past couple of years. We've grown a lot," she said.
While the result may come as a surprise to some, it wasn't one for the the 32-year-old point guard.
"This core group of people has been together a long time and we all really believed that we could do it. I think we believed in ourselves, I don't think other people really believed in us. But I know the core group of us believed in ourselves," Gabriele went on.
Head coach McNeill paid tribute to the people back in Canada who helped the team reach this stage.
"There have been a lot of people working really hard and a lot of things changing in recent years (within Canada Basketball) so this is a just reward for all those people," she said.
"Right now we have our junior and cadet teams watching our games and so what we're doing can and is inspiring a new generation."
In Friday's game, Canada avoided seeing what at one point was a 14-point lead go to waste.
Up 39-25 at the half, they struggled in the third quarter as Brazil applied some full-court pressure defense to great effect. The South Americans outscored their counterparts 28-16 in the period to get within 55-53.
Luis Tarallo's side continued using the tactic in the final frame to grab the lead on several occasions.
However, Canada were able to call on some of their young and bright stars down the stretch as Pilypaitis and Shona Thorburn both hit key shots.
"Courtnay stepped up huge for us in Ankara for us to get here. Shona has been playing really well in this tournament. She's knocked down shots and has been playing key minutes in key situations so she's playing very well too," Gabriele said of her younger team-mates.
McNeill recalled her team losing to Brazil on its way to a third-place finish at last year's FIBA Americas Championship, a result which she sees as a turning point.
"You have to remember that this is a very young team, probably one of the youngest teams here. So I think we needed that extra year. The fact that we finished third last year, that's helped. We're executing better.
"Down the stretch we were cluth. We got a few rebounds and hit a couple of three-pointers."
Canada finish their Preliminary Round play against Australia on Saturday.