USA Men And Women 3x3 U18 Teams Advance To Quarterfinals
Debrecen, Hungary – The USA men’s and women’s 3x3 U18 national teams came up with big victories in the Round of 16 to keep their gold medal hopes alive and advance to Sunday’s medal round quarterfinals at the 2015 FIBA 3x3 U18 World Championship in Debrecen, Hungary. The USA men (4-2), behind 19 points and an incredible shooting performance by Payton Pritchard (West Linn H.S./West Linn, Ore.), upset #2 seed Poland (4-2) 22-6, and the U.S. women relied on a balanced scoring effort to defeat Poland (2-4) 15-12.
The USA men advance to play 6-0 France on Sunday at 10:30 a.m. EDT. The U.S. women will meet Belgium (4-2), upset winners over Spain, at 9:50 a.m. EDT. The quarterfinals winners advance to Sunday’s semifinals and the bronze and gold medal game will also be held following the semifinals. Both of the USA’s quarterfinal games can be viewed live online at http://www.fiba.com/3x3U18WC/2015.
Earning the Group C #1 seed for the Round of 16, the USA women faced Group B #4 seed Poland and quickly took control of the game, opening up a 7-2 lead. The Americans pushed their lead to 11-5, however, Poland scored four straight to tighten the score to 11-9. The teams traded points and with 36 seconds left in the game the USA lead was still just two, 13-11. The USA’s Natalie Chou (Plano West Senior H.S./Plano, Texas) was fouled with 11 seconds left in the game and swished her two free throws to put the game out of reach and seal the Americans 15-12 win.
Chou led the USA with five points, Kristine Anigwe (Desert Vista H.S./Phoenix, Ariz.) and Arike Ogunbowale (Divine Savior Holy Angels H.S./Milwaukee, Wis.) contributed four points apiece, and Erin Boley (Elizabethtown H.S./Hodgenville, Ky.) finished with two points.
“Everyone doing their part and taking advantage of our height and strength, we are stronger than most of our opponents. So, we need to go to the rim and rebound,” said the 6-foot-4 Anigwe. “When our shots are on, we are really good.
“We are going to try to play harder since now if we lose we are done. We are going to play hard and continue doing what we have been doing.”
Earlier in the day, the USA women wrapped up preliminary play facing Andorra (0-5). Sporting a 4-0 record, the U.S. expected little difficulty against wunless Andorra, and that was exactly the case. The USA jumped ahead 8-0 and pressed on to earn the 21-3 win and did so with 4:04 of playing time remaining on the clock.
Anigwe paced the USA scoring with eight points, Boley and Ogunbowale scored five points each, and Chou tossed in three.
“This has been amazing. The fans are great. The people are really nice, everyone is down to earth and supportive,” added Anigwe.
“It is really fun. At first you couldn’t really see because of the sun and the wind. There is different weather, but you adjust to it. You just play. You play your best.”
Carrying Group D’s #3 seed, the USA men were matched against 4-1 Poland who finished second in Group A. The USA 3x3 squad moved out to 6-0 lead as Payton, P.J. Washington Jr. (Findlay College Prep/Frisco, Texas) and Jalek Felton (Mullins H.S./Mullins, S.C.) all contributed points. Poland cut the deficit to 6-2 and that’s when it became the Payton Pritchard Show.
With 7:30 showing on the game clock, Pritchard hit his second 2-pointer of the game to push the U.S. ahead 8-2. Over the next 1:45 the 6-foot-1 guard, who has verbally committed to play at the University of Oklahoma following his senior high school year, drained seven more 2-pointers from a variety of spots on the court. When he tallied his 19th point after draining his ninth 2-pointer with 5:45 left in the game, the U.S. had the 22-6 win.
“I don’t think anyone expects to have a game like that,” said Pritchard, who after three days and six games ranks second among all 3x3 players in scoring.” I know I can shoot really well, I know I can make a lot of 3s but that was something. When you are hot like that, I just kept on shooting, letting it fly. I thank God for letting me do something like that.”
Opening the day with its last preliminary round game and facing undefeated Spain, the U.S. suffered another heartbreaking overtime loss, falling 15-13 to Spain.
Starting strong, the U.S. men enjoyed an 8-5 advantage with 6:17 left in the game. However, the USA went scoreless over the next 4:34 while Spain ripped off eight consecutive points to grab control 13-8 with 2:18 to go.
But the U.S. refused to quit. Washington scored to end the USA scoring drought, Pritchard then followed with a 2-point hoop, Felton added a jumper, and after Washington scored inside, the Americans had rallied back to tie the game at 13 with 48 seconds left.
Neither team scored in the game’s final 48 seconds which meant the U.S. was headed to its second overtime game of preliminary play. With the first team to take a two-point lead in OT declared the winner in 3x3 play, the U.S. missed several 2-point tries in the OT and Spain took a 14-13 lead after scoring off a drive. Spain earned the win when Nil Bria Mendez scored on a mid-range jumper as the shot clock expired giving Spain the 15-13 win. Pritchard led the USA offensively with six points, Washington added 4 points, Felton scored two and Zach Collins (Bishop Gorman H.S./Las Vegas, Nev. added one point.
“I definitely think we all need to stay being aggressive. This is not just about one man, any of us can get hot like that, but as a team we need to just keep feeding him,” said Pritchard. “If that is Jalek (Felton), because he can have a big game like that, we need to keep feeding him. It could be Zach (Collins) or P.J. (Washington), we need to feed whoever is hot. That is what we did today. We are coming more together as a team, which is winning for us.
“Nothing else matters but winning. We will take it one game at a time. Tomorrow, we have France; we need to focus on that game not winning the next game or the gold medal. We need to win that game.”
In Saturday’s Dunk contest qualifying round, the USA’s Felton was one of four players to qualify for the Dunk finals on Sunday. Felton tallied 54 points for his two qualifying dunks, good for second (tie) most in the qualifying round. Kobe Paras of the Philippines compiled 56 points to finish the qualifying round ranked first; Uruguay’s Agustin Da Costa and Hungary’s Boros Mark also qualified.
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.