LONDON - A must-win game against Brazil to keep its medal hopes alive seemed like a daunting task for Canada's women's basketball team.
When the two teams met late last year in an Olympic qualifying tournament, the Canadians shot just 29.8 per cent from the floor and suffered another in a long string of lopsided losses against the Brazilians.
Those bad memories were wiped out in a flash Friday, as Canada started strong and held on for a 79-73 win over Brazil that guaranteed the Canadians a spot in the quarter-finals.
Kim Smith of Mission, B.C., and Ottawa's Courtnay Pilypaitis each had 14 points to lead the attack as Canada improved to 2-2. Tamara Tatham of Brampton, Ont., had 13 points and Hamilton's Shona Thorburn added 10 points and eight assists.
"We have had support from our friends and family, but nobody really expected us to be going to the quarter-finals," Thorburn said.
"I think this could do great things for basketball in Canada and team sports in general."
Erika Souza had 22 points and 12 rebounds for Brazil, which fell to 0-4.
Canada started strong against the sixth-ranked Brazilians, finishing the first quarter on a 10-0 run to take an 18-8 lead.
Brazil cut the deficit to 24-20 early in the second quarter, but Canada responded with another 10-0 run capped off by a Tatham steal and finished by a layup from Natalie Achonwa of Guelph, Ont.
Canada led 39-25 at halftime.
Brazil changed their tactics in the third quarter by playing a full court press and pressuring Canada. The strategy paid off, as Brazil scored 26 points in the quarter, knocking Canada's advantage to a slim 55-53 lead entering the fourth.
"We knew they were going to come out in the third (quarter) and attack us. We had some stupid turnovers. Basketball is a game of runs and they came back at us with some great runs," Thorburn said.
Brazil took its first lead of the game, 56-55, early in the fourth. But Canada cracked the Brazilian full court press and held on for the rare win over its South American rival.
"We used to lose (to Brazil) by 20 or 30 points so this is huge for us and will help Canadian basketball in that playing on the world stage will give kids in Canada an opportunity to see us," Smith said.
Canada will end their preliminary schedule with a game against Australia on Sunday.