SAITAMA, Japan — Canada has been pushed to the brink in women's basketball at the Tokyo Summer Games.
It's happened a lot sooner than they expected — thanks in large part to some uncharacteristically poor defensive play.
Now the Canadians' teetering Olympic fate sits firmly out of their hands.
Astou Ndour dominated with 20 points and 11 rebounds as Spain cruised to a 76-66 victory Sunday in the round-robin finale for both countries.
Kia Nurse had 14 points for Canada (1-2), which came out flat in both the first and third quarters — especially when Spain was in possession — and has to wait on other results to see if its time in Japan will continue.
"Heartbroken for our team," Canadian head coach Lisa Thomadis said. "We won two of the four quarters, but unfortunately we dug ourselves into too much of a hole.
Cristina Ouvina added 15 points and seven assists as Spain (3-0) clinched first in Group A.
"We need to be a great team for 40 minutes to win at this level," Canadian guard Bridget Carleton said. "There's no way to explain it. We're not happy about it.
"We believed in ourselves, and just weren't able to put it together."
Serbia (1-1) and South Korea (0-2) played in Sunday's late game to wrap up the group inside the cavernous Saitama Super Arena.
Ranked fourth in the world by FIBA, Canada needs a South Korean upset in that one to finish second in its group. If that doesn't happen, the Canadians will sit third and have some nervy hours in advance of Monday's results in the rest of the women's bracket to see if they'll move onto the quarterfinals — or get on a plane.
"Remaining hopeful and see what comes," centre Natalie Achonwa said of her roster's mindset. "And if we do happen to go on to the next round, just using today, and what we learned today, and adding an extra chip to our shoulders."
The top two teams in each of the tournament's three groups advance to the start of the medal round Wednesday, along with the two best third-place squads.
"Just hoping and praying," Carleton said. "Hopefully we can sneak in and reset and refocus."
"Sit in our rooms and wait," Nurse added. "There's not much else you can do."
Spain entered the 10 a.m. local time start having already booked a spot in the quarters. Canada departed the athletes' village just after 7 a.m. for the 40-kilometre bus ride to the venue north of Tokyo.
"We usually practice at 10 a.m. in the WNBA," Carleton said. "The bus ride that's an hour long at 7 a.m. is a little bit different. But it is what it is. You've just got to adjust. It's the Olympic Games.
Canada lost its opener 72-68 to Serbia before rebounding to beat South Korea 74-53.
The Canadians trailed 23-13 after Sunday's first quarter thanks to some sloppy play early before grinding their way back into the contest in the second, with Nurse's three-pointer just before half cutting the deficit to 40-34.
But the Spaniards went on an 18-4 run to go up by as many as 20 in the third.
"We approach every game the same way," said Achonwa, whose team lost 68-53 to the same opponent in the quarters of the 2018 FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup. "Regardless of who we're playing, Canada Basketball plays defence, and we didn't do that.
"We didn't bring what we needed to do in a Canada jersey."
Nurse hit a three early in the fourth to reduce Spain's lead to 60-52. The Canadians would get back to within six a couple of times, but couldn't close the gap any further.
Canada finished seventh at the 2016 Rio Games and has never medalled at the Olympics.
Currently sitting No. 3 in the world rankings, Spain won silver in Brazil five years ago.
"They're veterans, they're experienced, they know what it's like to play at this level," Carleton said. "We still should be able to put 40 minutes of good basketball together.
"It starts on the defensive end for us … that's the choice we have to make."
If upcoming results don't go their way, they won't have that option.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 1, 2021.
Follow @JClipperton_CP on Twitter
Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press