USA Women Take Silver At 2016 FIBA 3x3 U18 World Championship
Claiming a 21-12 victory over the USA (5-2) Sunday in Astana, Kazakhstan, for a second straight year France (7-0) got the better of the USA (5-2) in the FIBA Women’s 3x3 U18 World Championship title game to take home the gold medal.
The USA had an even tougher road to the gold medal game than expected at the 2016 FIBA Women’s 3x3 U18 World Championship after bad weather postponed their final two preliminary round games on Saturday and forced them to play five games on Sunday. The USA responded by winning four of the five games, coming up short only in the championship contest.
The 2016 USA Women’s U18 3x3 World Championship Team was comprised of University of California recruit Jaelyn Brown (Vista Murrieta H.S./ Murrieta, Calif.), rising high school senior Sidney Cooks (St. Joseph Catholic Academy/ Kenosha, Wis.), Texas Christian University commit Amber Ramirez (Karen Wagner H.S./ San Antonio, Texas) and rising high school senior Megan Walker (Monacan H.S./ Chesterfield, Va.). Jill Schneider (Monterey H.S./Texas), a gold medalist USA U16 and U17 head coach and USA 1979 FIBA World Championship gold medalist player and 1980 U.S. Olympian, is serving as the USA’s team leader.
In a rematch of last year’s FIBA 3x3 U18 World Championship gold medal game, a game France won in the closing seconds 20-19, France’s high-power offense was too much for the USA.
The French squad jumped out to a 2-0 lead, but the USA tied the game 2-2 on a Ramirez 2-pointer, and led 5-4 with 8:25 to play after another Ramirez 2 and a Cooks basket. France countered with five straight points to move out to a 9-5 advantage, and although the U.S. cut the deficit to 10-8 with 6:08 remaining, France put together an 8-1 run to grab control 18-9. The U.S. pulled to within six, 18-12, but France scored the game’s final three points to win 21-12. Ramirez led the USA offense with five points and Cooks tossed in three points.
"Overall, France came out ready to play. They played their best basketball against us,” said Walker.
"I guess you could say it’s (winning a silver medal) satisfying, but it just makes us want to come back next year and work hard to get that gold, and now we have experience under our belts so we'll be even better," added the 6-foot-1 guard.
Although the USA had to wait a day longer than anticipated to complete preliminary play after rain and wind postponed their last two preliminary round games on Saturday, the U.S. squad came out firing on all cylinders.
After wrapping up day one with a 1-1 record, the USA team was in need of wins in both of its final preliminary round games to assure themselves of advancing the to the medal round quarterfinals, and that’s exactly what it did.
In its first game of the day, the USA traded baskets with host Kazakhstan to start the contest, and Kazakhstan led 4-3 after connecting on a 2-pointer at 9:00. The USA reeled off five-straight points, however, to move ahead 8-4, and from that point on, Kazakhstan got no closer than three points. Helped along by five second-chance points, the USA earned a 19-14 victory. Walker paced the U.S. scoring with seven points, and Cooks had six.
In the USA’s final preliminary round game, Italy put the first points on the board, but the U.S. countered with six-straight to lead 6-1 when Cooks made a free throw at 8:04. The USA was in control 11-5 with 5:58 remaining when Italy began to battle back. Outscoring the USA 6-1 over the next two minutes, the USA found itself holding on to a one-point lead, 12-11. Ramirez made it 14-11 at 3:06 with her first of three 2-pointers in the final 2:05, and the USA took control of the game. Along with Ramirez’s hot shooting, Brown and Cooks each scored twice, and the USA closed with six unanswered points to win 21-12 with 1:01 remaining on the clock. Ramirez led the USA offense with eight points.
Facing 3-1 China in the quarterfinals, Ramirez scored the USA’s first two baskets and after Cooks added back-to-back baskets, the USA led 5-2 with 8:03 to play. China outscored the U.S. 5-1 over the next 2:40 to take a 7-6 lead, but the Americans, behind an impressive defensive effort and seven points from Walker, went on a 9-1 tear to regain control 15-7 with 1:21 to play and sailed on to post an 18-10 win. Walker finished with a U.S.-best 10 points, and Cooks added six more.
With only 4-1 Czech Republic standing in the way of a gold medal game appearance, the USA sprinted to a 9-1 lead with 7:30 left in the contest thanks to seven points by Walker. Czech Republic refused to give up on its own gold medal game dream and outscored the USA 10-2 to tie the game 11-11 with 2:51 left. Tied at 12 with 2:27 to play, Brown scored on a baseline jumper with 2:20 showing on the clock, then Walker sealed the deal scoring the USA’s final six points en route to the 19-15 win. Walker finished with 14 points, while Cooks and Brown each contributed two points.
“I just knew that we had to get through these games and it was going to be a long day, so I was just trying to help my team out in the best way possible. I knew I had to attack more and coach was telling me to look for my shot,” Walker said about her increased scoring output in Sunday’s games.
Scoring 44 points in seven games, Walker was named to the three-player All-Tournament Team and finished tied for second in scoring. Ramirez ranked seventh in scoring with 34 points, Cooks listed eighth scoring 32 points, and Brown was 47th having tallied 13 points.
“It was a great experience," said Walker about playing in the FIBA 3x3 U18 World Championship. "Just being able to travel this far across the world, and then meeting the great people here and the people from the other countries, they were all so nice and welcoming. It was really great.
"Playing 3x3 definitely benefitted me because it expands your game. Instead of having five people you have three so you have to learn how to make extra cuts and learn how to set your opponents up. Court spacing is really important, always moving without the ball is important, making key shots and finishing are important."
In the women’s bronze medal game, Spain (5-2) edged Czech Republic (4-3) 18-12.
The men’s gold medal went to Qatar (6-1), 20-12 winners over Brazil (4-3), and Italy (6-1) took home the bronze medal after defeating New Zealand (5-2) 21-14.
The USA women, who earned the right to represent the United States at the FIBA 3x3 U18 World Championship after winning the USA Basketball Women’s 3x3 U18 National Tournament on May 1.
The 2016 FIBA 3x3 U18 World Championship featured 20 men’s and 20 women’s teams from around the globe. The USA Basketball women qualified by virtue of FIBA’s world rankings. Athletes were required to 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 3x3 tournament, included in the FIBA 3x3 U18 World Championship program was assorted skills contests, including a women’s skills session, men’s dunk contest and a combined men’s and women’s shoot-out.
Under FIBA’s 3x3 rules, each game consists of one 10-minute period. The team leading after completion of regular playing time, or the first team to score 21 points is declared the winner. If the game ends in a tie, the first team to score two points in overtime earns the victory. Shots made outside the arc are awarded two points, shots made inside the arc are awarded one point and each made free throw is one point. Additionally, a 12-second shot clock is utilized.
The FIBA 3x3 U18 World Championship has been held on an annual basis since 2011, except the years of the Summer Youth Olympic Games (2010, 2014).
The USA women’s 3x3 U18 teams have now compiled a 54-8 overall record and captured gold at the 2014 Youth Olympic Games, and the 2012 and 2013 FIBA 3x3 U18 World Championships; silver at the 2015 and 2016 FIBA 3x3 U18 World Championship; and bronze medals at the 2010 Youth Olympic Games and 2011 FIBA 3x3 U18 World Championship.