By Larry Fine
LONDON (Reuters) - Canada celebrated a doubly satisfying Olympic women's basketball triumph on Friday by reaching the quarter-finals with a long-awaited win over rivals Brazil at the Olympic Basketball Arena.
The Canadians withstood a fierce third-quarter comeback by Brazil that erased a 14-point halftime lead by solving their full-court pressure to preserve a 79-73 victory and improve their Group B record to 2-2.
Canada, whose best Olympics result was fourth place at the 1984 Los Angeles Games, clinched the last berth from their group to join France, Russia and Australia in the round of eight and leaped for joy on court when the clock ran out.
"It's huge," said 28-year-old forward Kim Smith, who scored 14 points. "It's huge for our program. It's huge for a big group of us who have been around a long time and never beaten Brazil. It's a great feeling."
Shona Thornburn, who turns 30 this month, sank some crucial free throws in the dying minutes to help keep Brazil at bay.
"We've prepared for this, we've dreamed about this and we're getting it together right now," said Thornburn, who contributed 10 points as one of five Canadian players in double figures.
"We believed we could do this. We really believed we deserved to be here. This is the first time we've beat Brazil in like 12 years. I've never beaten them."
Brazil, winners of the last two Americas Championship and twice Olympic medallists, fell to 0-4 after previously losing to France, Russia and Australia.
Erika Souza scored 22 points for Brazil and Clarissa Santos scored 21.
Brazil Coach Luis Tarallo said his team was in transition and that his younger players were worn out from working so hard in their previous games.
"The team was very, very tired through working very hard to win the games," Tarallo said. "They need more experience and training. They are very, very sad."
That, of course, contrasted with the pure joy on the faces of the Canadians, who are ranked 11th and were one of the last teams to qualify for the Olympics.
"We are extremely happy to beat Brazil," said coach Allison McNeill. "They have been a dominant power in the Americas and this is a big win for us."
"In '84 we finished fourth. It's been a long time, so it's pretty exciting to get to the quarter-finals."
(Editing by Frank Pingue)