USA Comes From Behind For 77-60 Victory Over Canada For Fourth FIBA Americas U16 Championship Gold Medal
BAHIA BLANCA, Argentina -- Fighting back from a 20-point second quarter deficit, the 2015 USA Basketball Men’s U16 National Team (5-0) earned a hard-fought 77-60 victory over Canada (4-1) to earn the FIBA Americas Championship gold medal on Sunday night in Bahía Blanca, Argentina. The gold medal marked the fourth gold in as many editions of the U16 tournament, and the USA now owns a perfect 20-0 record overall in U16 play since the biennial tournament launched in 2009.
Gary Trent Jr. (Apple Valley H.S./Apple Valley, Minn.) scored all 19 points of his points in the second half and earned tournament MVP honors. Tied as the USA’s scoring leader on the night was Jarred Vanderbilt (Victory Prep School/Houston, Texas), who had 10 of the team’s first-half points and finished with 19 points and 10 rebounds. Wendell Carter Jr. (Pace Academy/Fairburn, Ga.) posted a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds. Tre Jones (Apple Valley H.S./Appel Valley, Minn.) had five steals and finished the tournament with a USA U16 competition record 19 steals, breaking Malik Newman’s record of 14 set in 2013.
Also setting USA U16 competition records were Jalen Hill (Corona Centennial H.S./Corona, Calif.), who connected on 88.2 percent (15-17 FGs) of his shots to surpass the record of 71.1 percent set by Jahlil Okafor in 2011. Markus Howard (Findlay Prep, Nev./Chandler, Ariz.) shot 48.4 percent (15-31 3pt FGs) to set a new mark for USA 3-point percentage, formerly owned by Adonis Thomas, who shot 46.2 percent (6-13 3pt FGs) in 2009.
“I think in the first half we were a little too loose with the basketball and had some turnovers,” said USA head coach Don Showalter (Iowa City H.S., Iowa), who now owns a 43-0 record and has led U.S. teams to seven gold medals since 2009 as head coach of the USA Junior National Team (U16 and U17). “We weren’t very aggressive on the boards. They pretty much dominated us on the boards in the first half. And when you play like that, your shooting percentage isn’t very good. You’re only getting one shot and they were making their shots that first quarter. It kind of woke our players up a little bit. As the game went on we showed what we’re really made of.
“I give Canada a lot of credit,” continued Showalter. “They had a great game plan. They weren’t going to let us get a lot of second shots. They were going to make us take shots that we really didn’t want to take.”
The silver medal marked Canada’s best finish at the event as it previously won bronze medals in 2009, 2011 and 2013. Argentina (3-2), which won silver medals in the past three events, finished with the bronze medal after defeating Dominican Republic (2-3) 74-59.
Looking at a 20-point deficit early in the second quarter, the USA spent the remainder of the first half and the third quarter fighting its way back.
Trailing 51-49 entering the fourth quarter, the USA evened the score early on a Carter put-back, but Canada went back up, 56-51, over the next 40 seconds. That’s when the tide finally turned.
After Carter missed completing a traditional three-point play, Vanderbilt was there for the board and score and at 8:25, the USA was behind by just one, 56-55.
While the USA’s defense stymied Canada into four missed scoring opportunities and a turnover, Hill scored on a dunk and a Kevin Knox II (Tampa Catholic H.S./Tampa, Fla.) 3-pointer not only gave the USA its largest lead of the night to that point in the game, 60-56 with 5:49 to play before the medal ceremony, it gave the USA renewed energy.
“Gary (Trent) hit a couple 3s that were really big for us, and Kevin Knox hit a big 3 for us,” said Showalter. “I think we were up one and Kevin put us up 60-56. Sometimes players have to step up and make some great plays. We ran a couple sets for Gary to get hot and fortunately he did.
“Gary is a real focused player. He really focuses in on what to do, not only what to do, but how the other team is playing him. He adjusts his game according to how the other team is playing him. So, he missed a couple big 3s in the first half and missed some in the third quarter, but I told him to keep shooting it. He’s a great shooter and they’re going to fall for him.”
From that point, Canada’s remaining four points came from the line, while the USA received 10 points from Trent and six from Vanderbilt, and the red, white and blue came out with the 17-point victory.
“It was a tough game,” said Vanderbilt. “We were down by 20, but we stuck together. That was our first time really facing adversity and for us to stay together and stick it out to the end really shows how good we are as a team, the brotherhood, the chemistry that we have.”
While the red, white and blue got on the scoreboard first, Canada fired off the game's next 14 points and by the end of the first period, the USA trailed 19-3.
Following a pair of Canada buckets, which put the USA into its largest hole of the contest, 23-3 at 9:02, the USA U16 men scored 10-straight to pull to within 10, 23-13, at 6:29. From there the scoring remained even and the USA headed into the locker room trailing 37-27.
In the first half, Canada held the U.S. to an icy-cold 27.5 percent (11-40 FGs) from the field, including 0-of-8 from beyond the arc. Canada also out rebounded the USA 34-26 during the first 20 minutes, while getting 13 second-chance points.
“(Coach Showalter at halftime) said that shots would start falling,” said Howard, who scored nine points. “We just have to pick it off and continue to build off the run we were making. We knew that we’d be fine coming down the stretch.”
Javonte Smart (Scotlandville HS/Baton Rouge, La.) drove the lane eight seconds into the second half and Trent followed with a steal and dunk, followed by a put-back off his own miss and the USA was within four points, 37-33, at 8:16. Canada answered with back-to-back buckets to expand its lead to eight, 41-33, at the 6:39 mark.
The U.S. responded with a 10-0 run, which featured five points from Trent and the U.S. held the lead for the first time since the opening minutes, 43-41, at 4:53.
“Gary played really well,” said Carter. “He took shots that were daring. He made shots when they were needed to be made. He was our go-to guy. He stepped up to the plate.”
Canada would not back down and the score see-sawed throughout the remainder of the third period, which ended with a Canada put-back with three seconds on the clock to give the USA’s foe at 51-49 advantage.
In the second half, the USA hit 50.0 percent (21-42 FGs) of its field goals, while Canada hit just 25.8 percent (8-31 FGs) of its tries from the field.
Overall the USA outscored Canada 46-30 in the paint, 21-17 on second chance points and scored 26 points off of Canada’s 27 turnovers.
Assisting Showalter and the 2015-16 USA Junior National Team are Miles Simon (California Supreme AAU) and Sharman White (Miller Grove H.S., Ga.).
In classification games, Venezuela (1-4) picked up its first win, 81-70 over Mexico (1-4) to finish in seventh place, while Brazil (2-3) finished in fifth place with a 62-43 victory over Puerto Rico (2-3).
The U16 tournament served as the Americas zone qualifier for the 2016 FIBA U17 World Championship, and the top four finishing nations from the FIBA Americas U16 Championship, the four medal semifinalists -- Argentina, Canada, Dominican Republic and the USA -- have earned the four FIBA Americas spots for the 2016 U17 Worlds.
Held every other year, the FIBA Americas U16 Championship first was contested in 2009, and under the direction of Showalter, the USA has earned the gold medal in all three editions.