PUERTO MONTT (2011 FIBA U19 World Championship for Women) - Undefeated Canada will face a mighty test when they play Spain in the first Quarter-Final of the FIBA U19 World Championship for Women in Puerto Montt, Chile on Friday.
While Spain may have only defeated Chile in the Eight Final round, they suffered agonisingly close defeats against Australia and France, when Helena Akmouche nailed a long jump shot on the buzzer to claim the French victory.
In the Preliminary Round they also pushed the very talented Brazilian team all the way before going down by seven points.
The Spaniards have a dangerous array of swingmen including Queralt Casas, Mariona Ortiz and Immaculada Zanoguera, who are averaging 28 ppg and 13 rpg between them. Their efforts complement the inside presence of the towering Astou Ndour and the powerful Laura Gil, who account for another 18 ppg and 16 rpg combined.
While there is no doubt Spain has talent, Canada has been superb in every game of the tournament, defeating Japan by eight points, the USA by 12, Russia by 16, Italy by 24 and China by 27.
Michelle Plouffe (15 ppg, 6 rpg)and Nirra Fields (16 ppg, 6 rpg) have been Canada's best players, but the standout has been their team play and discipline to the different game plans coach Rich Chambers has put in place each night.
"Coach looks at the tape, comes up with a plan and we go from there," Plouffe said. "It's just mental preparation for each game, and straight after each game we say 'we have got to get ready for the next one'."
Chambers admits he has an extra amount of study to do for this game. "I don't know anything about (Spain), we thought we had Brazil. We were ready for Brazil but we'll go back and do our work now, we have a little bit of time."
Chambers also thought forgetting the big win over the USA was critical, and believed his team was up to the task. "I guess (we do). All week we've been 'don't get too high, don't get too low, it's a long tournament'."
Spain coach Carlos Colinas knows his team is facing a great challenge. "In my opinion Canada has shown themselves to be the strongest team in the tournament," he said. "So we have to use our resolve, our hearts and play the best basketball we can."
Zanoguera admitted they were expecting to be playing a different North American team. "We knew Canada were very well prepared for this world championship, but at the same time it is a big surprise, their victory over the USA," she said.
"But we are going to give it our best shot whether it is the US or any other team."
The game tips off at 13:30 local time at Puerto Montt Arena.