Puerto Rico earns first Women’s Basketball World Cup victory

Sydney, Sept. 22 (AP): Arella Guirantes’ huge effort helped Puerto Rico make history with its first Women’s Basketball World Cup victory.

Guirantes had 26 points, nine rebounds and eight assists to lead Puerto Rico to an 82-58 victory over Bosnia and Herzegovina on Thursday in the tournament opener.

“I’m at a loss for words right now since we crushed so much together,” she said. “It’s great to get a win on such a great stage.”

In Thursday’s other games, the United States beat Belgium 87-72; Canada beat Serbia 67-60 and Japan beat Mali 89-56. South Korea faced China and the Australian hosts met France in later matches.

Puerto Rico played in its first World Cup in 2018 and was winless in three matches in this tournament. The country was also winless at the Tokyo Olympics last summer.

“It’s a great victory for us. We didn’t win any games in the last World Tournament,” said Puerto Rico coach Jerry Batista. “We are very excited and happy about this.”

The victory comes at a difficult time for Puerto Rico as the island tries to recover from the destruction caused by Hurricane Fiona earlier this week.

“I know you are going through a difficult time. … We’ve been through this before, so I know everyone in the community will lean on each other and help each other. Stay safe,” guard Jennifer O’Neill said.

Puerto Rico ran to a 31-16 after the first quarter and never looked back. The 31 points was the most points scored by the country during a period in its brief World Cup history.

In other Thursday games:

United States 87, Belgium 72

Breanna Stewart scored 22 points and Alyssa Thomas had 14 points, nine assists and seven rebounds in her debut for the United States.

The Americans took an early 12-0 lead before Belgium settled in to close within a point. The US, again extended the lead behind Stewart and Loyd and led 48-39 at halftime. The Americans went on a 12-4 run to start the third quarter and put the game aside.

Julie Vanloo scored 13 points to lead Belgium.

Canada 67, Serbia 60

Kayla Alexander scored 13 points and Nirra Fields added 12 to help Canada beat Serbia in Game 1.

Trailing by one after the first quarter, the Canadians beat Serbia 23-12 in the second quarter to take the lead and didn’t look back.

Kia Nurse, who missed the entire WNBA season while recovering from a torn ACL she suffered in October 2021, had nine points in 19 minutes.

Yvonne Anderson scored 18 points to lead Serbia.

Japan 89, Mali 56

Aika Hirashita scored 17 points, hitting five 3-pointers and Stephanie Mawuli added 14 to help the Olympic silver medalists win their opener.

Japan only led 21-18 after one quarter before taking control in the second period with a 26-11 advantage. Japan continued to extend their lead in the third quarter and coasted the rest of the way.

Djeneba N’Diaye scored 13 points and Sika Kone added 10 for Mali, who are still looking to win their first World Cup since 2010.

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