USA U18 Women Cruise Past Argentina 97-51, Into Gold Medal Game
Colorado Springs, Colorado
The 2014 USA Basketball Women’s U18 National Team (4-0) jumped out to an 11-0 lead in its semifinal game against Argentina (2-2) and immediately silenced any question of which team would be playing for the gold medal in the 2014 FIBA Americas U18 Championship. Led by 23 points, nine rebounds and four blocked shots from A’ja Wilson (Heathwood Hall H.S./ Hopkins, S.C.), who shot 10-of-11 from the field, the USA recorded a 97-51 victory on Saturday night at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
The USA will meet Canada (3-1) in the championship game at 5:30 p.m. (MDT) on Aug. 10. The Americans handed Canada its lone loss of the competition, a 107-76 victory in the preliminary round on Aug. 8.
Canada advanced to the gold-medal game after beating Brazil (2-2) 67-60. Brazil and Argentina will meet in the bronze medal game at 3:30 p.m. (MDT). All games are live online at www.fibaamericas.com, and admission to the championship is free.
The USA, Argentina, Brazil and Canada, by ensuring top-four finishes in the tournament, qualified for the 2015 FIBA U19 World Championship in Russia.
The USA recorded 24 assists on 34 made baskets, won the rebounding battle 53-23 and saw all 12 U.S. players score, while allowing Argentina 35 points in the second half after giving up just 16 points in the first half.
“I thought we put a good first half together in which we built ourselves a big lead, and then we had a letdown in the second half,” said USA head coach Dawn Staley (University of South Carolina). “I don’t know if it was their youth or just being complacent, letting their guards down, and if it was, then it’s our job as coaches to keep them level. I think we got exposed on not boxing out, and we want our players to constantly create good habits just so they can get better as individuals, and put ourselves in a position to win a gold medal.”
Three players contributed 11 points apiece, including Marina Mabrey (Manasquan H.S./Manasquan, N.J.), Beatrice Mompremier (Miami H.S./Miami, Fla.), who added eight rebounds, and Jessica Shepard (Fremont H.S./Fremont, Neb.), who tied the USA Women’s U18 record for free-throw attempts with 11, a mark that was set by Brianna Turner (Manvel H.S/Pearland, Texas) against Canada on Aug. 8.
Additionally, Napheesa Collier (Incarnate Word Academy/O’Fallon, Mo.) dished out a game-high seven assists.
“I thought it was kind of ugly in the second half because we held (Argentina) to 16 points in the first half, and then they scored 35 in the second,” Collier said. “We weren’t going for rebounds and playing how we should have been. Tomorrow is going to be a tough game; it’s tough to beat anybody three times, so we have to tighten everything up.”
The start of the game saw the USA open with an 18-2 run that included eight points from Mabrey and six from Wilson. Mompremier scored twice on her own before Argentina tallied its last two points of the quarter from the free throw line. The USA closed the first period with eight straight points, and the scoreboard read 30-8 at the first break.
Wilson again started her team off strong in the second quarter and tallied 10 points during a 14-1 U.S. spurt that pushed the lead to 44-9 at 5:49. Argentina made a 3-pointer and scored twice more from the field, while the USA got three 3-pointers and 12 points overall to make it 56-16 at the half.
At the midway point, Wilson had made all seven of her shot attempts and was 2-of-2 from the free throw line in just 12 minutes played.
“We care a lot about sharing the ball,” Wilson said. “We just want to get the easiest bucket possible. That’s the biggest thing with Coach Staley, make the easy pass, get the easy bucket and we’ll come out with a win every time.”
Argentina never quit fighting, and thanks in part to five 3-pointers, outscored the USA 23-20 in the third quarter. The game, however, already had been put well out of Argentina’s reach, and the score was 76-39 headed into the final 10 minutes.
The USA again buckled down on defense and gave up just 12 points in the fourth quarter, and its offense saw five players combine for 21 points to bring the game to its 97-51 final.
Agustina Garcia scored 12 points to lead Argentina in the scoring column.
“We’ve worked really hard for it, and we’re excited to play and compete for a gold medal,” Mabrey said.
Also today in the fifth through eighth playoffs, Puerto Rico (2-2) beat Mexico (1-3) 68-51, and Chile (2-2) beat El Salvador (0-4) 63-41. On Sunday, Mexico and El Salvador will play for seventh and eighth places, while Puerto Rico and Chile will compete for fifth and sixth places.
Staley, who also will serve this summer as an assistant coach for the 2014 USA Basketball Women’s World Championship Team, is joined on the sideline by USA assistant coaches Kim Barnes Arico (University of Michigan), who today was celebrating the win and her birthday, and Jeff Walz (University of Louisville).
The USA is looking for a seventh-straight gold medal at the 2014 FIBA Americas U18 Championship for Women, and is now 47-2 over all in the event since it was first held in 1988.