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Canada's Women's Basketball Team Eliminated From Rio Olympics With Loss To France

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RIO DE JANEIRO — Canada missed out on a chance at a women's basketball medal after falling 68-63 to France in the quarter-finals of the women's basketball tournament at the Rio Olympics on Tuesday.

Canada's offence dried up after the first quarter as France slowly pulled away late to clinch the win and book a date with the United States in the semifinals.

Captain Kim Gaucher led the way for Canada, ranked No. 9 in the world, with a game-high 15 points, as well as five rebounds.

canada basketball
An overview shows France's power forward Endy Miyem (L), Canada's forward Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe (2nd L) and France's centre Sandrine Gruda (R) eye a rebound during a Women's quarterfinal basketball match between France and Canada at the Carioca Arena 1 in Rio de Janeiro on August 16, 2016 during the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. / AFP / Mark RALSTON

Gaucher said she felt "gutted" after the loss.

"Just like you've been punched in the stomach," she added.

Fourth-ranked France was paced by 14 points and a game-high 10 rebounds from Sandrine Gruda.

On the other side of the bracket, No. 14 Serbia upset No. 2 Australia 73-71 on Tuesday and will meet No. 3 Spain, which downed No. 10 Turkey 64-62, in the other semi.

Canada held a 25-16 lead after the first and stretched that lead to 13 early in the second before France went on a 12-0 run midway through the quarter to cut the deficit to 29-28.

"We got into foul trouble in the second quarter and that brought them back into the game," Gaucher said.

After a blistering 25-point first quarter, Canada's offence dried up. The attack was hampered by Kia Nurse's inability to find her scoring touch. The star guard was 3-for-17 from the floor.

canada basketball
Canada's guard Kim Gaucher falls during a Women's quarterfinal basketball match between France and Canada at the Carioca Arena 1 in Rio de Janeiro on August 16, 2016 during the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. / AFP / Andrej ISAKOVIC

Canada was solidly defensively, frequently forcing France into shot-clock violations. But with a close game winding down, France found the key buckets down the stretch and Canada couldn't respond.

Any designs on a desperate comeback attempt were hurt when Miranda Ayim picked up her fifth foul late in the game.

With Canada trailing by five with and the clock ticking down, Nirra Fields provided a ray of hope with a key bucket to cut France's lead to 64-61 with 25 seconds left. But on the ensuing inbound, Fields was called for an unsportsmanlike foul when she pushed a French player, giving France two uncontested free throws plus possession and essentially ending the game.

Canada held a 25-16 lead after the first and stretched that lead to 13 early in the second before France went on a 12-0 run midway through the quarter to cut the deficit to 29-28.

Canada got back on track late in the half to take a 37-32 lead into the break, but France scored the first six points of the third and the teams went back and forth from there to sit tied 50-50 heading to the fourth.

Canada was coming off back-to-back losses to close out round-robin play, including a disappointing 73-60 setback to Spain on Sunday. The Canadians battled back from 47-35 to trail by just two heading to the fourth quarter of that one, but were left fuming at the buzzer after being outscored 24-13 over the game's final 10 minutes.

The Canadians, who beat the French in a couple of warm-up games before coming to Brazil, came in with a 3-4 record against their opponent in overall tournament play, including a victory in the classification round at the 2014 world championships.

The evenly matched teams had almost identical stat lines ahead of tipoff, with each averaging 68 points and 18.4 assists through five games, while France had a slight 39.4 to 38.4 edge in rebounds per contest. Canada and France finished with identical 3-2 records in round-robin play. The Canadians wound up third in Group B, while the French were second in Group A after winning a tiebreaker.

canada basketball
Canada's head coach Lisa Thomaidis (R) and players recat in the last minutes during a Women's quarterfinal basketball match between France and Canada at the Carioca Arena 1 in Rio de Janeiro on August 16, 2016 during the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. / AFP / Mark RALSTON

An unorthodox 10:15 p.m. local start time didn't keep fans away, with the lower bowl of the 16,000-seat Carioca Arena 1 on the grounds of Barra Olympic Park in Rio's west end almost completely full for the game.

Canadian fans packed the area behind the team's bench, while a smaller French contingent did the same one section over.

Canada began its momentum towards Rio at the London Olympics and continued to gain traction at last summer's Pan Am Games where the team won an historic gold.

The roster from that memorable tournament, which includes six players who play their trade professionally in France, remained unchanged in Brazil.

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