Canada into women's World Cup semis for 1st time since 1986

SYDNEY (AP) — No one on Canada's roster was alive the last time the team won a medal at the women's World Cup. Now the Canadians are a win away from winning one for the first time since 1986, when they captured the bronze.

Kia Nurse scored 17 points to lead a balanced Canada team to a 79-60 win over Puerto Rico on Thursday in the quarterfinals.

“It's really special,” Nurse said. “It's been a work in progress for us and we all felt the disappointments. Quarterfinals have been our downfall for a long time and to be able to get over that hump ... I think our country is continuing to get really excited about basketball in the grassroots programs and this is just the start of what we can accomplish.”

Next up is a matchup Friday with the U.S., which beat Serbia 88-55. In other quarterfinal games later Thursday, China beat France 85-71 and host Australia downed Belgium 86-69.

“This is a great accomplishment for Canada Basketball,” Nurse said. “It’s been a really long time coming. Getting to this point, I think it speaks a lot to those who have come before us to help us grow the game in Canada, to help us to continue to gradually climb the ladder as we have in the last number of years.”

“It’s always our goal to win a quarterfinal and make it to the semifinals. The medal rounds is where we want to be,” Canada's Bridget Carleton said.

Canada (5-1) and Puerto Rico were tied 4-4 before the Canadians scored the next 12 points to start a 22-7 burst to close the quarter.

The lead ballooned to 44-23 at the half. Puerto Rico couldn't really cut into its deficit in the second half thanks in part to Nurse and the fact that Canada committed only four turnovers the entire game. After spending 11 months recovering from an ACL injury, she saw her first game action in the World Cup. She had her best game of the tournament against Puerto Rico.

The loss ended a great run for Puerto Rico, which advanced to the quarterfinals for the first time in its history. The players hoped the unprecedented run could bring some joy to the island which is recovering from Hurricane Fiona.

“The word legacy sums it up,” said Arella Guirantes, who had 19 points to lead Puerto Rico (2-4). “To leave something like that for the youth that's coming it up is bigger than any win or loss that we can have. . . . It means a lot to be a part of the beginning of a legacy. I have no doubt in my mind that we'll be back and will be better.”

UNITED STATES 88, SERBIA 55

Alyssa Thomas had 13 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists to help the U.S. beat Serbia.

Kelsey Plum scored 17 points and A’ja Wilson added 15 to lead the Americans (6-0), who will face Canada.

The Americans had run through pool play, winning by 46.2 points per game and hadn’t faced any kind of challenge. Serbia (3-2) wasn’t afraid though, going right at the U.S. The Serbians scored the first basket of the game — marking the first time the Americans trailed in the tournament.

It was back-and-forth for the first 17 minutes, with the U.S. failing to go on any major run. Then, with 2:59 left in the half and the U.S. up by five, Kahleah Copper drove to the basket and was fouled. She landed hard on her hip and had to be helped off the court by the U.S. training staff. Copper, who has been a sparkplug for the U.S. in her first tournament, didn’t return.

Plum replaced Cooper and hit the two free throws, starting a 12-0 run to close the half as the Americans led 50-33 at the break. Serbia didn't challenge that deficit in the second half.

Yvonne Anderson led Serbia with 14 points.

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Doug Feinberg, The Associated Press