USA Women's U18 National Team Rolls Through FIBA Americas Championship Undefeated With 81-37 Victory Over Host Argentina
Led by a double-double of 20 points and 15 rebounds from Nneka Ogwumike (Cy-Fair H.S. / Cypress, Texas), the 2008 USA Women's U18 National Team (5-0) concluded its run through the FIBA Americas U18 Championship for Women unscathed with an 81-37 drubbing of host Argentina (2-3) Sunday night in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
The team's first-place finish qualified the USA for the 2009 FIBA U19 World Championship, along with runner-up Canada (4-1), third place Brazil (3-2) and fourth place Argentina (2-3).
'I feel awesome,' said USA and Northern Illinois head coach Carol Owens. 'Words cannot express how far this team has come since the first day of training camp. We are a gold medal team, and that is something that they can cherish for the rest of their lives. I'm probably going to wear my medal around my neck all the way home.'
Playing in front of its home crowd, Argentina managed to keep pace with the Americans through the first quarter. Ogwumike put the game's first four points on the board with two offensive rebounds as the USA jumped to a 4-0 tally, but Argentina answered with a 3-pointer and continued to counter the USA's offense in front of a standing-room-only crowd. The two teams traded baskets for the first 10 minutes, and the score was 19-16 in the USA's advantage after one.
Argentina tied the game at 19 points with a 3-pointer to start the second period, but the USA turned up its defensive intensity and launched a 21-7 run that stretched all the way to the halftime buzzer. Ogwumike tallied 16 first half points to help the red, white and blue head to the locker room holding a 40-26 advantage.
'We knew that we had already secured the gold medal, but we felt it would mean so much more if we stayed undefeated,' Ogwumike said. 'I just went out and played hard and tried to keep my teammates focused as well. Anytime there is a crowd, whether they are for you or against you, it gets you fired up. We really fed off that energy.'
The third period may have been the USA's best 10 minutes of the entire tournament. Seven players combined for 20 points in the period as the USA held Argentina to just one made basket that came with just 1:40 left on the clock. The Americans also grabbed 13 offensive rebounds in the period alone.
'They were focused and ready to go, and they fed off the crowd,' Owens said. 'We knew Argentina didn't shoot particularly well, so we wanted to take away their drive, and the girls executed the game plan.'
The fourth period was more of the same U.S. domination, and the scoreboard read 81-37 when the final buzzer sounded.
Kelsey Bone (Dulles H.S. / Stafford, Texas) tallied 12 points and nine rebounds; Skylar Diggins (Washington H.S. / South Bend, Ind.) contributed 11 points, four assists and four rebounds; Kelly Faris (Heritage Christian / Plainfield, Ind.) added eight points and six rebounds.
Helping the USA dominate the glass, Shekinna Stricklen (Morrilton H.S. / Morrilton, Ark.) collected 12 boards and Alyssia Brewer (Sapulpa H.S. / Sapulpa, Okla.) collected seven. Much like its other four games, the USA held a rebounding over Argentina, this time an impressive 68-26 tally.
'Winning a gold medal kind of makes you speechless,' Faris said. 'Not only did we win the gold medal for us, but every person who saw us wanted us to win it for them too. It's an accomplishment that a lot of people don't have a chance to experience, and it feels good.'