USA U17 Women Battle Australia For 89-68 Win, Advance To Semifinals
- Diamond DeShields Leads Three U.S. Players In Double Figures As Team Blocks USA U17 Record 16 Shots
Amsterdam, the Netherlands Aug. 24, 2012
After a first-half fight, the USA Basketball Women’s U17 World Championship Team (6-0) pulled away from Australia (3-3) in the third quarter to record an 89-68 win and advance to the semifinals of the 2012 FIBA U17 World Championship on Friday night at Sporthallen Zuid in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.
The USA will meet Canada (4-2), which survived against the Netherlands (4-2) 56-55, in the semfinals at 7 p.m. (1 p.m. EDT) on Aug. 25.
“I felt like Australia came out and played really well,” said USA head coach Jill Rankin Schneider (Monterey H.S., Texas). “They were able to shoot the ball well, and they built an early lead. They gave us their best shot, and we've got to expect that. We also have to respond, and we've got to make sure we bring our best game as well, especially now in the semifinals. Bottom line is we were able to do what we needed to do to get the win. You've got to credit Australia, and at the same time, you have to credit our kids for responding.”
Leading by just four points at halftime, the U.S. defense buckled down to force 13 Aussie turnovers in the second half while limited Australia to just 25.0 percent (10-40 FGs) from the field after the midway point.
Diamond DeShields (Norcross H.S./Norcross, Ga.) led the USA with 19 points and four blocked shots, Mercedes Russell (Springfield H.S./Springfield, Ore.) tallied 18 points and a USA U17 record-tying 14 rebounds and Linnae Harper (Whitney Young H.S./Chicago, Ill.) scored 13 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, including seven offensive boards, to go with her USA U17 record eight steals a high she previously set with seven steals on Aug. 21.
Further, the USA blocked a USA U17 record 16 shots, while it attempted a record 93 field goals.
The USA previously had beaten Australia in exhibition play 103-58 on Aug. 11 in Caorle, Italy.
“We played them a few weeks ago, and we blew them out,” Harper said. “I didn't think the game would be as challenging as it was, but we do know that from now on, every team is going to give us their best. We need to stay focused throughout the whole game-- every possession counts. We just can't do the things we have done in the past, because now its win or you don't get a gold medal. We need to stay focused and do what we have to do.”
The USA put the first points on the board with a three-point play from Lindsay Allen (St. John’s College H.S./Bowie, Md.). From there, however, Australia compiled an 11-1 run to lead 11-4 with two free throws at 6:43. Another U.S. three-point play, this time from Harper ended the drought and pulled the USA to within four 11-7 at 6:28. Australia went up by seven again with a 3-pointer at 6:00 before the USA worked its way back to a 14-11 deficit with an offensive rebound and score from Harper. The Australian lead bounced between five and three points as the teams battled, and with a score at the buzzer, Australia led 24-19 after the first quarter.
With another 3-pointer at 9:34, Australia again led by seven points, 27-20, in the second period, but DeShields answered with her own three, and the USA worked its way back to within two points, 27-25, when DeShields scored again at 8:40. A score from Taya Reimer (Hamilton Southeastern H.S./Fishers, Ind.) at 6:25 tied the game at 29-29, and the game was tied three more times before the USA took its first lead since the start of the game, 37-35, with two free throws from Jessica Washington (Jenks H.S./Tulsa, Okla.). Australia scored at 41.9 seconds to pull even, but DeShields and Oderah Chidom (Bishop O’Dowd H.S./Oakland, Calif.) each sank two free throws in the final 27.4 seconds to give the USA a four point, 41-37 advantage at halftime.
“I think we had a slow start, but then we came together in the second quarter and picked it up, and then we played with a higher intensity,” Russell said.
Two free throws from Russell and then two 3-pointers from DeShields at 9:07 and 7:24 gave the USA some breathing room, 49-41. After another free throw from Russell, Reimer scored on either end of an Australian three to help the USA build a 54-44 lead at 5:59. Australia came within six, 54-47 at 4:10, but then Harper scored again and DeShields sank two from the charity stripe, and the USA was back on top 58-47 at 3:20. From there, the teams traded scores before a score from Russell and yet another offensive rebound led to two made free throws from Harper to give the USA a 65-41 lead headed into the final 10 minutes.
“Rebounding is always huge, because when you have the ball you can't score,” DeShields said. “So, when you control the glass, you control the game. I definitely think offensive rebounding helped us. Mercedes was huge on the boards for us in the second half. She really showed up for us tonight.”
Australia fought hard throughout, but it could not come any closer than 12 points after the first score of the period, and its comeback hopes were hampered by foul trouble, losing reserve player Alanna Smith to a fifth foul at 6:35 and starting guard Tiana Mangakahia at 6:23. Overall, the USA outscored Australia 24-17 to bring the game to its 89-68 final.
Also today, South Korea (2-4) beat Turkey (0-6) 82-79 and Mali (1-5) topped Brazil (1-5) 58-51, meaning Turkey and Brazil will square off for 11th/12th place tomorrow, while South Korea and Mali will play for 9th/10th place.
Spain (4-2) downed Italy (4-2) 67-39 to advance to the semifinals, and Japan (5-1) beat Belgium (2-4) 70-64 to earn its berth. Spain and Japan will play at 9:15 p.m. on Aug. 25.
The winners of the semifinals will compete in the gold medal game on Aug. 26, and the losers will battle for the bronze medal. Italy, Belgium, Netherlands and USA/Australia will play out for 5th-8th places.
Schneider is assisted on the U.S. sideline by Gail Hook (Monarch H.S., Colo.) and Letitia Hughley (Mott C.C., Mich.). The trio helped qualify the USA for the U17 Worlds by virtue of their gold-medal finish at the 2011 FIBA Americas U16 Championship.