Puerto Rico earns first women’s basketball World Cup victory

SYDNEY — Arella Guirantes’ huge effort helped Puerto Rico make history with its first win in the women’s basketball World Cup.

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

“I’m lost for words right now since we have been grinding so much together,” she said. “It feels great to pull out a win on such a great stage.”

In other games Thursday, the U.S. beat Belgium 87-72; Canada topped Serbia 67-60 and Japan routed Mali 89-56. South Korea faced China and host Australia met France in later games.

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

“It’s a great win for us. We didn’t win a game in the last world tournament,” Puerto Rico coach Jerry Batista said. “We are very excited and happy about it.”

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

Puerto Rico raced out to a 31-16 after the first quarter and never looked back. The 31 points were the most the country had scored in a period in its brief World Cup history.

In other games Thursday:

U.S. 87, BELGIUM 72

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

The Americans jumped out to a quick 12-0 lead before Belgium settled down to get within one. The U.S. lengthened the lead again behind Stewart and Loyd and was up 48-39 at the half. The Americans went on a 12-4 run to start the third quarter and put the game away.

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 the opener.

Trailing by one after the first quarter, the Canadians outscored 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 its 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, which is still looking to win its first World Cup contest since 2010.

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More AP women’s basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/womens-basketball and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports

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