Sep 11 (Reuters) - The Canadian basketball team, boasting nine NBA players on their roster, have blown their initial chance to qualify for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio with a shock loss to Venezuela at the FIBA Americas tournament on Friday.
Canada, who had dominated the tournament by winning each contest by 17 or more points, fell 79-78 in the semifinals to a Venezuelan team without any NBA players, fully aware a win would lock up a place in Rio.
Now they will have to try to get through via a qualifying tournament next year, against potentially much tougher European competition.
Venezuela came back from a seven-point deficit late in the contest to win on a free throw from Gregory Vargas with three tenths of a second left after Aaron Doornekamp was called for a foul.
Boston Celtic center Kelly Olynyk led all scorers with 34 points and added 13 rebounds for Canada but it was not enough when combined with an off night for Andrew Wiggins, who managed just nine points and multiple turnovers.
The world champion United States, host Brazil, Australia, Nigeria, Venezuela and fellow FIBA American semifinal winners Argentina have now locked up half of the Rio field.
Reporting by Ben Everill in Los Angeles; editing by Sudipto Ganguly