U18 Men Dispatch Dominican Republic, Advance to FIBA Americas Final
After downing the Dominican Republic (2-2) 90-56 in the 2014 FIBA Americas U18 Championship medal semifinal, the 2014 USA Basketball Men’s U18 National Team (4-0) advanced to its eighth gold medal game in nine U18s on Monday night at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
The U.S. squad again produced a well-rounded scoring effort. USA Basketball veterans Stanley Johnson (Mater Dei H.S./Fullerton, Calif.) and Tyus Jones (Apple Valley H.S./Apple Valley, Minn.) combined for 29 points, eight assists and five steals to lead the way as five players scored in double digits and two more scored no less than eight points apiece.
In the gold medal game, which will tip-off on June 24 at 5:30 p.m. (MDT), the U.S. will face also undefeated Canada (4-0), which defeated Argentina (2-2) 91-82 in overtime in the first semifinal game of the day. Argentina will square off against Dominican Republic for the bronze medal at 3:15 p.m. (MDT). All games are being streamed live online by FIBA Americas and can be viewed viafibaamericas.com or YouTube/fibaamericas.
The USA, which has medaled in each of the previous eight FIBA Americas U18 Championships, is assured of its ninth medal at the event after winning gold in 1990, 1994, 1998, 2006, 2010 and 2012, while capturing silver in 2008 and bronze in 2002.
“I actually thought our guys did a good job and went in with a 22-point lead at the half,” said USA U18 National Team and University of Florida head coach Billy Donovan, whose USA Basketball head coaching record now stands at 18-0. “I thought what hurt us was that we went 5-for-12 from the free-throw line in the third quarter. I thought our press was good. We went through a long stretch in the second half where we really held them down and they didn’t score, but the problem was we kept getting fouled and missing free throws. I think the guys did a nice job and I’m excited for them to get to play in the gold medal game.
“I think Canada is a good, solid, quality team,” stated Donovan on the USA’s final opponent. “They are undefeated as we are going into this gold medal game. They have a lot of really good players, they seem like a very well connected group, they’re well coached and they play well together. We’ll have to play very, very well to put ourselves in position to win.”
Myles Turner (Trinity H.S./Bedford, Texas), who entered the game with 12 blocked shots over the first three contests, notched his 14th block at the first quarter buzzer to surpass the previous USA U18 competition record of 13, set back in 1994.
“I think that’s one of my biggest roles in this team, to play defense,” said Turner upon learning of the record. “I accept that role, and I take a lot of pride in that role. Going forward, if that’s what it takes to win, that’s what I’m going to do. I’m very excited about setting the record and see all the hard work paying off.”
Johnson led all scorers with 15 points, also swiped a team-high seven rebounds and had three steals; Jones scored 14 points and dished out seven assists; Allonzo Trier (Montrose Christian/Seattle, Wash.) scored 13 and picked off three steals; Luke Kennard (Franklin H.S./Franklin, Ohio) shot 3-of-6 from 3-point and closed with 11 points; Jalen Brunson (Adlai E. Stevenson H.S./Lincolnshire, Ill.) scored 10 points and shot 8-of-12 from the line; while Turner added nine points and Isaiah Briscoe (Roselle Catholic H.S./Union, N.J.) had eight.
The Dominican Republic struck first, but the USA answered with a 12-1 run, with eight points coming from Jones, to go up 12-3 at 6:07. However, the islanders fought back and by the end of the first quarter the USA held a 10-point lead, 24-14.
“They came out there and had a great mind-set going forward,” said Turner. “They tested us a little bit mentally because they were getting real physical, but we kept our composure and just played like USA Basketball.”
Opening the second quarter on an 18-5 run, aided by a perfect 10-of-10 from the line to go up 42-19, it looked as if the Americans were set to run away with another game. Weisner Perez, who finished with a team-high 11 points for Dominican Republic, then scored seven points in an 8-2 spurt to close to 44-27. However, Jones hit a pair from the line, got a running fast-break lay-up and assisted a buzzer-beating Trier 3-pointer as the USA outscored the Dominican Republic 7-2 to take a 51-29 lead at the half.
Despite the 22-point deficit, the Dominican Republic continued to run with the USA’s fast-paced offense and worked hard at breaking the full-court pressure defense. A pair of and-ones and a drive to the hoop early in the second half helped the Dominicans close to 56-37 early in the second half. The Dominicans were soon deflated, however, as the USA forced them into a pair of misses and three turnovers, while the USA’s offense scored eight straight points to expand the lead to 64-37 with 4:14 left in the third quarter. By the end of the period, which saw Kennard take a pass from Jones and hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer, the Americans were up 28, 69-41.
The U.S. continued to stretch its lead in the fourth quarter, which the Americans won 21-15, and advance to the gold medal game with the 37-point victory.
“You learn to sacrifice for something that is bigger than you as a basketball player,” said Trier, who is averaging 13.5 points, yet playing only 16 minutes a contest. “We have one goal at hand, and that is to win gold. Winning gold is bigger than all of us, so individually it’s us coming together and sacrificing what we need to in order to win gold.”
In addition to Perez, who had six rebounds, the Dominican Republic was led by Jeremy Rodriguez, who hit a double-double with 10 points and 10 boards.
The U.S., which scored eight points off of 11 Dominican turnovers, closed the night with 21 points off of 21 turnovers and was credited with 15 steals. On the flip side, the USA only gave up four points from its 13 turnovers.
While the USA edged the Dominicans on the glass, 52-48, it was outscored 15-4 on second-chance points. However, the USA outscored its opponent 50-38 in the paint, 25-6 on the fast break and held a 39-33 edge off the bench.
Tonight’s game marked the lowest the Americans held an opponent’s 3-point shooting as they defended Dominican Republic into a paltry 11.8 percent (2-17 3pt FGs) from afar and just 31.4 percent (22-70 FGs) overall, while the USA hit 49.2 percent (31-63 FGs) from the field and 26.7 percent (4-15 3pt FGs) from 3-point.
Not everything went well for the red, white and blue tonight. After hitting a perfect 16-of-16 from the line in the first half, the USA faltered from the charity stripe in the second half and finished the game with 66.7 percent (24-36 FTs) free throw shooting.
Canada is guaranteed its best finish at this event after claiming three bronze medals (2008, 2010, 2012); while Argentina has captured one gold medal (2008) and four silver medals at the U18s (1990, 1994, 1998, 2006) and the Dominican Republic has never finished higher than fifth place (1998, 2002).
In classification semifinals, Puerto Rico (2-2) edged Mexico (0-4) 70-69, while Brazil (1-3) downed Uruguay (1-3) 97-55.
Joining Donovan on the sideline as USA assistant coaches are collegiate head coaches Ed Cooley of Providence College and Sean Miller of the University of Arizona.
FIBA Americas U18 Championship
Originally known as the FIBA Americas Junior World Championship Qualifier, the tournament was held every four years between 1990-2006. FIBA changed its calendar following the 2006 championship and the tournament is now conducted every other year, followed in the next summer by the FIBA U19 World Championship.
USA men’s teams are now 46-2 in the U18 / Junior World Championship Qualifiers and have won gold in 1990, 1994, 1998, 2006, 2010 and 2012, while capturing silver in 2008 and bronze in 2002.
Some of the top players to have suited up for the USA in the U18 zone championship include: Shareef Abdur-Rahim (1994); Carmelo Anthony (2002); Michael Beasley (2006); Chris Bosh (2002); Dee Brown (2002);Nick Collison (1998); Jonny Flynn (2006); Spencer Hawes (2006); Grant Hill (1990); Allan Houston (1990);Andre Iguodala (2002); Kyrie Irving (2010); Stephon Marbury (1994); Mike Miller (1998); Quentin Richardson (1998); Austin Rivers (2010); Kyle Singler (2006); Marcus Smart (2012); Jarnell Stokes (2012);Rasheed Sulaimon (2012); Kemba Walker (2008); and Deron Williams (2002).
Competing against the USA at the U18s have been notable internationals such as: Leandro Barbosa (Brazil) in 1994; Jose Barea (Puerto Rico) in 2002; Gregory Echenique (Venezuela) in 2008; Juan Fernandez(Argentina) in 2008; Todd MacCulloch (Canada) in 1994; Jamal Magloire (Canada) in 1994; Raul Neto (Brazil) in 2010; Peter Ramos (Puerto Rico) in 2002; Luis Scola (Argentina) in 1998; Tiago Splitter (Brazil) in 2002;Andrew Wiggins (Canada) in 2012; and Jesse Young (Canada) in 1998.
Based in Colorado Springs, Colo., USA Basketball, chaired by Jerry Colangelo, is a nonprofit organization and the national governing body for men’s and women’s basketball in the United States. As the recognized governing body for basketball in the U.S. by the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) and the United States Olympic Committee (USOC), USA Basketball is responsible for the selection, training and fielding of USA teams that compete in FIBA-sponsored international competitions, as well as for some national competitions.
During the 2009-12 quadrennium, 1,273 male and female players and 235 coaches participated in USA Basketball, including USA Basketball teams and trials, and USA Basketball 3x3 FIBA championships.
USA Basketball men’s and women’s teams between 2009-12 compiled an impressive 262-35 win-loss record in FIBA and FIBA Americas competitions, the Pan American Games, the World University Games, the Nike Hoop Summit and in exhibition games.
USA teams are the current men’s and women’s champions in the Olympics; men’s and women’s FIBA World Championships (Basketball World Cup); men’s and women’s FIBA U19 and U17 World Championships; men’s and women’s U18 and U16 FIBA Americas Championships; the FIBA 3x3 Women’s World Championship; and the FIBA 3x3 Women’s U18 World Championship. USA Basketball currently ranks No. 1 in all five of FIBA’s world-ranking categories, including combined, men’s, women’s, boys and girls.
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