ISTANBUL - Kim Gaucher led all players with 16 points as Canada capped a strong finish at the world women's basketball championship, finishing fifth with a 61-53 win over China on Sunday.
The win gave Canada its best finish at the tournament since winning bronze in 1986. Canada finished 12th the last time the tournament was held in 2010.
The performance at the world championship continues an upward trajectory for Canada as it prepares to host the 2015 Pan Am Games in Toronto and the qualification tournament for the 2016 Rio Olympics in Edmonton.
"It certainly puts us on the map," head coach Lisa Thomaidis said on a conference call Sunday. "We fought long and hard to get to a top-eight finish at the Olympics in 2012 ... now to basically catapult into the top five is gigantic."
After a 63-52 loss to second-ranked Australia in the quarter-finals, Canada rebounded to beat No. 4 France and No. 8 China — two teams that entered the tournament ahead of ninth-ranked Canada. The Canadians also decisively beat No. 5 Czech Republic 91-71 to qualify for the quarter-finals.
Thomaidis said it was important for the Canadians to rebound after the quarter-final loss and finish strong.
"We are still fighting to prove that we belong and that we deserve to be in the same conversation as some of the top teams in the world," she said. "These two wins go a long way to help support that argument."
Gaucher, the veteran from Mission, B.C., was supported by six-foot-three power forward Miranda Ayim. The native of Chatham, Ont., finished her strong tournament with 15 points and nine rebounds against China.
"Miranda was an absolute warrior," Thomaidis said. "She was fantastic all tournament long but today she just seemed possessed. She was going after rebounds, she was playing against people a few inches taller than her and 30 to 40 pounds heavier than her but she brought it at both ends."
Ting Shao led China with 12 points.
Later Sunday, Australia beat host Turkey 74-44 in the bronze-medal game while the United States took gold with a 77-64 win over Spain.