AJ Lawson leads Canada in win over Australia Saturday

HERAKLION, Greece (FIBA) – Canada came into the FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup 2019 as the defending champions. Still, the red-and-white were doubted with a number of top players not in Heraklion. Gamecock forward AJ Lawson and Karim Mane answered the bell and came up big performances in an 81-76 win over a tough Australia side.

Knowing that Group B supremacy could be decided on Day 1 of the tournament, Canada showed no drop in talent – and most importantly they stayed calm in big moments. AJ Lawson poured in 13 of his 23 points in the fourth quarter in doing his best RJ Barrett impression – referring to Canada’s star leader who helped them to the title at Cairo 2017. 

Lawson, who nailed 3 of his 5 three-pointer in the final frame, added  8 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals for Canada, who also got 23 points and 5 rebounds from Karim Mane. Both Lawson and Mane hit 5 three-pointers to lead the Canadian attack, which converted 13-of-25 three-pointers for an excellent 52.0 percent.

Canada, who won their first-ever FIBA crown at Cairo 2017, are without the likes of Andrew Nembhard, Emanuel Miller and Addison Patterson among others. But just like in Egypt, Canada’s next group of motivated talents stepped up. 

“We are just trying to stay focused and accomplish our goal, which is to win the championship,” said Lawson, who looked calm and collected all game against Australia, who eliminated a 12-point second quarter gap to  even things at 58-58 after three quarters. 

The final frame was tight until Lawson and Mane both hit three-pointers for a 77-72 advantage with under 3 minutes to play. Mane and Lawson then both converted two free throws inside the final 19 seconds to secure the Group B victory.

Kody Stattmann paced Australia with 21 points while Sam Froling collected 15 points, 13 rebounds and 6 assists in the loss.

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