USA Teams Go Undefeated In Day 1 Action At FIBA 3x3 U18 World Championship
Debrecen, Hungary – In the first day of competition at the 2015 FIBA 3x3 U18 World Championship in Debrecen, Hungary, the USA men and women recorded impressive starts as both compiled wins in their first two preliminary round games.
The American men rolled over Puerto Rico (0-2) 21-4 to begin preliminary group play, then wrapped up the day by earning a hard-fought 19-15 victory over Georgia (1-1). The USA women were tested in their opening contest and prevailed in overtime for a 16-14 win over Switzerland (0-2), and won their second game of the day in easier fashion, taking down Romania (1-1) 21-6.
The 2015 USA Men’s U18 3x3 World Championship Team is comprised of Gonzaga University verbal commit Zach Collins (Bishop Gorman H.S./Las Vegas, Nev.), University of North Carolina verbal commit Jalek Felton (Mullins H.S./Mullins, S.C.), University of Oklahoma-bound Payton Pritchard (West Linn H.S./West Linn, Ore.) and P.J. Washington (Findlay College Prep/Frisco, Texas), who has not yet committed to a collegiate program.
The 2015 USA Women’s U18 3x3 World Championship Team is comprised of University of California commit Kristine Anigwe (Desert Vista H.S./Phoenix, Ariz.), University of Notre Dame verbal commit Erin Boley (Elizabethtown H.S./Hodgenville, Ky.), Natalie Chou (Plano West Senior H.S./Plano, Texas) and Notre Dame commit Arike Ogunbowale (Divine Savior Holy Angels H.S./Milwaukee, Wis.),
The USA men only led 5-4 versus Puerto Rico but ended the game with a 16-2 run to stake claim on the one-sided 21-6 win. Pritchard led the USA charge with 10 points, Washington added eight points, and Collins finished with three. Tied against Georgia 7-7, the USA scored five-straight points to take a 12-7 lead and create the needed breathing room. Pritchard again paced the USA in its victory over Georgia, scoring eight points, while Washington tossed in seven and Collins added four. Felton was withheld from action Thursday because of a sore knee.
“I was definitely a little anxious, but I wouldn’t say nervous, just really excited to get out there and compete,” said Pritchard. “It’s such a cool venue here, a lot of people came out, everybody is watching you on the main court, you just get really hyped and I think it showed today. We really came out with intensity and hit Puerto Rico in the mouth and then played well against Georgia.
“Playing outdoors definitely does affect your shot. The wind is blowing sometimes so sometimes you have to adjust to that a little bit. But it’s fun, you don’t get to play outside in front of a lot people like this ever, so it’s a really great experience.
“We played really well in our training camp and I think that carried over. How you practice is usually how you play and we practiced really well, so we came out and played really well,” continued the 6-foot-1 sharpshooter. “To keep winning we have to keep playing together and just play hard defense. It starts with defense.”
For Pritchard and his three teammates, the significance of wearing the USA jersey in an international competition wasn’t lost on them.
“It was an awesome feeling, that part gets you a little anxious. Everybody has eyes on you because you’re representing USA, the best country in the world and you have go represent it well. It’s a great feeling.”
The USA women needed baskets from Ogunbowale and then Anigwe to claim a 16-14 overtime win against Switzerland. Anigwe led the USA offense scoring six points, Ogunbowale tossed in five, Chou scored three points and Boley added two points. The second game of the day for the women proved easier. The Americans jumped ahead 8-1 and cruised in for the 21-6 victory against Romania. Ogunbowale, who already has won two gold medals with USA teams in 3x3 international competitions, scored a game-high seven points, Anigwe and Chou each contributed six points and Boley scored two points.
“That (first game) was a pretty rough. It was our first game and we were a little rusty but we’re happy we got that out,” said Ogunbowale.
“We know (in overtime) you have to win by two so we were just really trying to get to the basket and I’m pretty sure they were over the foul limit so we would get free throws anyways, but we had to get physical and get to the basket and not just shoot,” said Ogunbowale about the USA strategy heading into overtime versus Switzerland.
“The setting is really cool, it’s mostly like the other settings. Sometimes they have a dome but this one doesn’t so its really hot during the day but at night it’s pretty cool.
“Our balanced scoring is going to be a strength for us, if one of us is down we know our teammates are good enough to pick up the slack so that will be in our advantage. We have to play like we did in the second game, play relentless and attack the basket and all work together.”
The USA men continue preliminary round play Friday facing Argentina (1-1) at 1:20 p.m. EDT and Indonesia (0-2) at 3:30 p.m. EDT. The U.S. team will conclude preliminary play Saturday versus Spain (2-0) at 8:30 a.m. EDT.
Day two of preliminary round play for the women features the USA going against Italy (2-0) at 10:10 a.m. EDT on Friday, and Egypt (0-2) at 2:30 p.m. EDT. The USA women conclude preliminary play Saturday versus Andorra (0-2) at 10:00 a.m. EDT.
The top four finishing teams from each of the four preliminary round groups advance to the final round of 16 that is being contested on Saturday. Final 16 round winners advance to the quarterfinals on Sunday, and semifinals and finals are being conducted on Sunday as well.
The 2015 FIBA 3x3 U18 World Championship features 24 men’s and 24 women’s teams from around the world.
Athletes must be 18-years-old or younger (born on or after Jan. 1, 1997) in order to compete. In addition to the men’s and women’s tournament, included in the FIBA 3x3 U18 World Championship program for the weekend will be assorted skills contests, including a women’s skills session, men’s dunk contest and men’s and women’s shoot-out.