U17 Women Capture 61-50 Win Over Spain, Exhibition Tournament Crown
July 11, 2010 • Alagon, Spain
Riding a third-quarter surge to a 60-51 win over Spain (2-1), the 2010 USA U17 Women's World Championship Team (2-1) wrapped up its exhibition schedule as the winner of a round-robin, pre-world championship tournament on July 11 in Alagon, Spain.
"I felt like we played much harder than we had been, and we cared more about being effective," said Barbara Nelson, USA U17 and Wingate University head coach. "I felt like we played for the first time like a team, I'm excited that we are taking steps in the right direction, but we have a long way to go.
"I think it was a game of runs, and I'm very happy our runs came out on top," Nelson continued. "I do think Spain played with a lot of heart, but I felt like we really matched their effort tonight with our intensity."
Elizabeth Williams (Princess Anne H.S./Virginia Beach, Va.), who ranked tied for fourth among all participants in scoring (11.3 ppg.) and rebounding (6.7 rpg.), tied for third in blocked shots (1.3 bpg.) and tied for fifth in shooting percentage (50.0 percent) in the three-day tournament, was named MVP.
"It's cool to be named MVP, but I still think it's better that we won the tournament as a team," Williams said. "It's a nice feeling, but at the same time we still need to get better if we want to get that world championship trophy."
The USA will travel to Rodez, France, on July 12 for the start of the inaugural FIBA U17 World Championship for Women on July 16.
Spain nailed two 3-pointers to start the game and had jumped to a 6-0 lead at 7:57, but the USA responded with a 7-0 run of its own to take its first lead, 7-6, on a three-pointer from Ariel Massengale (Bolingbrook H.S./Bolingbrook, Ill.) with 4:27 on the clock. Another 3-pointer and a made free throw helped Spain keep pace with the USA, which added nine more points from four scorers to close the first period up 16-10.
"I think we had intensity from the beginning of tonight's game, and we didn't drop our heads when we were down early," Bria Smith (Christ the King H.S./Massapequa, N.Y.). "We just keep going, so I thought that was better than we had played."
The second period was a back and forth affair, as the red, white and blue edged Spain 12-10 in the stanza to take a 26-22 lead to the halftime locker room.
Spain put the second half's first points on the board, but Williams scored two easy baskets inside to ignite a 10-0 run that gave the USA a 36-24 advantage, which it held onto to close the period up by 11 points, 44-33.
"Tonight we meshed better as a team, and we all were pumped," Imani Stafford (Winward H.S./Los Angeles, Calif.). "The loss to Australia yesterday was a wake-up call, and we all wanted to come out and prove that we were the better team. In the second half we came out and were ready to play. We raised our intensity level and we didn't let up."
By the time Kaleena Lewis (Mater Dei H.S./Anaheim, Calif) sank a 3-pointer at 4:48 in the fourth quarter, the U.S. lead had reached 18 points, 55-37, the USA's largest lead of the night.
Spain refused to quit, and closed the period on a 13-2 run that brought them as close as seven points, 57-50, with 37.9 seconds on the clock. The effort was too late, however, as Breanna Stewart (Cicero North Syracuse H.S./North Syracuse, N.Y.) scored on a dish from Lewis and Massengale sank two free throws with 12.0 seconds on the clock to bring the score to its final of 61-50.
"I knew we would pull it out, it was just a matter of winning how we wanted to win," Stafford said.
Stewart finished as the USA's high scorer with 14 points, eight rebounds and six blocks, followed by 10 points apiece from Lewis, Massengale and Williams, who also grabbed seven rebounds. Additionally, Cierra Burdick (Butler H.S./Matthews, N.C.) collected 11 rebounds.
Yurena Diaz led Spain with 16 points.
The USA, which continued to struggle from the field (20-of-62, 32.3 percent) and from the free-throw line (16-of-28, 57.1 percent), outrebounded Spain 56-41, and both teams committed 24 turnovers.
"We need to quit turning the ball over still," Nelson said. "We had 24 turnovers, and at least 10 of those were unforced -- just bad passes, bad decisions. We have to get a shot every possession, so that's a place we can definitely improve tremendously. Thank goodness we have three more practices before the world championships to get us ready. I think this tournament was helpful. It helps us know what we need to work on, and it's our job to get into practices and get better."
The United States was drawn into Preliminary Round Group A for the 2010 FIBA U17 World Championship, along with host country France, Canada, Japan, Russia and Turkey. Competing in Preliminary Round Group B will be Argentina, Australia, Belgium, China, Mali and Spain.
The Americans will open play on July 16 against tournament host France at 8:30 p.m. (all times CEST, which is +6 hours from EDT) followed by Russia at 5:30 p.m. on July 17 and Canada at 3:00 p.m. on July 18. Following a day off on July 19, the USA will wrap up preliminary round play against Turkey at 5:30 p.m. on July 20 and Japan at 5:30 p.m. on July 21.
The top four finishing teams from each preliminary round group advance to the medal quarterfinals, scheduled for July 23, the semifinals are slated for July 24 and the gold and bronze medal games will be contested July 25.
Nelson is assisted by Mike
Armstrong of Perry Meridian High School (Ind.) and Dorena Bingham of
Team Alaska AAU.