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Canada suffers narrow men’s basketball loss before must-win game for Paralympic berth | CBC Sports

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Canada continues to make necessary adjustments while building confidence entering Monday’s winner-take-all men’s basketball match at a last-chance Paralympic qualifier.

With veteran Patrick Anderson on the bench, the Canadians exchanged points with Iran late in the fourth quarter Sunday before falling 75-74 on a buzzer-beater by Mohamadhassan Sayari in their final group game in Antibes, France.

Canada, with an 0-3 record, will play Italy at 10:30 a.m. ET Monday in crossover action at Azur Arena to determine which team will play in the Paralympic tournament this summer in Paris. Live streaming coverage will be available on CBCSports.ca, the CBC Sports app and CBC Gem.

Italy improved to 3-0 with a 72-63 victory over Germany later Sunday.

“That was a bit of a gut-wrenching loss there — last second, buzzer-beater, but still a lot of nice things to take away from the game today,” Canada player Colin Higgins told Wheelchair Basketball Canada. “We feel like we played better today. There’s been a bit of momentum in our game over the last three games, and hopefully, that carries over to a win on Monday.

“We’re seeing progress, and we know that with one or two more tweaks, we can hopefully be victorious and punch our ticket on Monday.”

WATCH | Full replay of Canada vs. Iran:

Men’s Wheelchair Basketball Paralympic Qualifier: Canada vs. Iran

Watch Canada take on Iran in Antibes, France, as Canada tries to earn a spot at the 2024 Summer Paralympics.

The eight-team repechage tournament is the final opportunity for teams who did not qualify for Paris through their zone qualifier to earn a spot at the Games in August.

Canada, which was sixth at the world championships in Dubai last year, has competed in every Paralympics in men’s wheelchair basketball since 1968 and won a gold medal in 2000, 2004 and 2012.

Sunday’s game was the closest outcome for Canada this week following losses to the Netherlands (62-45) and France (61-55).

4th-quarter struggles

Sayari, who didn’t leave the court the entire game, delivered the final blow to the Canadians, burying a jump shot with no time on the clock after Nikola Goncin gave Canada a 74-73 advantage with three seconds remaining.

That the Canadians were tasting victory in the final seconds is a good sign after mental, emotional and physical fatigue was their downfall against the Netherlands.

Canada also struggled to play a full 40 minutes versus France on Saturday. Veteran player Patrick Anderson missed a three-pointer with two minutes left and his team trailing by six while Vincent Dallaire couldn’t convert from under the basket 15 seconds later. Colin Higgins and Anderson also had shots bounce off the rim from three-point range in the final minute.

On Sunday, Goncin came off the bench for Anderson for the final 2:13 after the latter made two free throws to extend Canada’s lead to 67-62.

But a Mahdi Abbasi jump shot made it a two-point game at 68-65 and Sayari cut the deficit to one with a jumper. With 33 seconds on the clock, Abbasi put Iran ahead 71-70 and the teams exchanged points the rest of the way.

Higgins played 37 minutes 13 seconds and topped Canada with 25 points, 11 rebounds and game-high 13 assists. Anderson had 23 points and six rebounds across 27:47. Dallaire and Goncin added eight points apiece.

With each game, Canada has shot more effectively from the field, going from 34.5 per cent, to 38.1 per cent, to 49 per cent. Its eight turnovers on Sunday were nearly half of the 15 recorded against France.

Sayari shot 58 per cent from the field and his 29 points were the most by any player. He also had six rebounds and six assists. Morteza Abedi and Vahid Gholamazad collected 14 and 13 points, respectively for the Iranians (1-2).

This year only eight countries will participate in the Paralympic Games tourney, down from 12 at recent Games. The reigning world champion United States has already qualified with Great Britain and Spain, which placed 1-2 at the European championships, and Australia (Oceania-Asia champions).

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