Here’s why you should get to know the Canadian women’s basketball team

All eyes are on the Raptors right now, but the national women’s team has already proven itself worthy of Olympic gold.

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Canada celebrates their win over Cuba during second half action of the 2015 FIBA Americas Women's Championship Final in Edmonton on August 16, 2015. The Canadian women's basketball team peaked at the perfect time this summer, using a gold-medal run at the Pan American Games in Toronto as a springboard for a dominant performance at the FIBA Americas women's championship in Edmonton. Now, with a berth at the 2016 Summer Olympics locked up well in advance, the trick is figuring out how to do it again next summer. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

Canada celebrates a win over Cuba during the 2015 FIBA Americas Women’s Championship Final in Edmonton. Jason Franson/CP.

The Toronto Raptors made history Sunday, advancing farther than ever before in the pursuit of an NBA championship title. It was a victory for the “6ix” and a coup for a nation that so rarely wins at the sport it created. But as all eyes veer stateside to watch the Raps take on the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference final, we’re already looking forward to Rio.

Why? Because that’s where Canada’s national women’s team is slated to slay their American counterparts — again.

Canada’s women’s basketball team is a force to be reckoned with — a “bonafide powerhouse,” according to the Globe and Mail‘s Cathal Kelly. The team snagged its first-ever gold at last summer’s Pan Am Games in Toronto, beating the U.S. team 81-73. They also handily won the 2015 FIBA Americas Women’s Championship in Edmonton to qualify for the 2016 Rio Olympics.

It’s the best team you’ve never heard of.

Yes, Raptors high-scorer Kyle Lowry has had some brilliant moments in this playoff run so far. But Canadian women’s team point guard Kia Nurse shot a stunning 33 points during the Pan Am final, which Sportsnet reporter Michael Grange called a “privilege” to watch.

“Tonight she became a star,” Grange said. “She lifted her country on home soil against the U.S. — a performance that will go down as one of the best ever by man or woman wearing a Canadian jersey playing basketball for this country.” Nurse’s epic performance earned her the role of flag-bearer in the Pan Am closing ceremonies.

And while Raptors head coach Dwayne Casey gets a ton of credit for leading the team this far, women’s national team coach Lisa Thomaidis brought Team Canada to gold and the University of Saskatchewan’s Huskies to number one amongst Canada’s university women’s basketball teams.

Team Canada will play the U.S. again in Group B at the Rio Olympics in August, and while Drake may not be sitting courtside, we certainly will.

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