USA U17 Women Fend Off Czech Republic For Hard-Fought 72-63 Win
The 2016 USA Basketball Women’s U17 World Championship Team (2-0) repeatedly fought off comeback attempts by Czech Republic (0-2) and battled its way to a 72-63 win on Friday afternoon in Zaragoza, Spain.
The USA led by as many as 15 points in the second quarter, but twice in the second half Czech Republic came within four points of the USA’s lead and within three points with 6:56 remaining in the game.
“Czech Republic came in with a sense of urgency,” said USA head coach Dori Oldaker (Mt. Lebanon H.S., Pa.). “So, for our kids it was a great, teachable moment, and it was very nice to get a win out of it. We need to learn from it and match that intensity. We had some key decision-making moments at the very end of the game, which was good for us.”
With the USA leading 59-56 in the fourth period, Aquira DeCosta (St. Mary's H.S./Stockton, Calif.) scored on an offensive rebound and then stole the ball, which Destanni Henderson (Fort Myers H.S./Fort Myers, Fla.) passed ahead to Olivia Nelson-Ododa (Winder-Barrow H.S./Winder, Ga.) for an easy score to give the USA some breathing room, 63-56 at 5:17.
“We worked really hard all throughout the game, and we just kept pushing and pushing,” said Nelson-Ododa, who led the USA in scoring with 13 points and 10 rebounds and tied the USA women’s U17 record for free throw attempts (10). “It feels great to pull it off.”
Czech scored to make it 63-58, but Henderson nailed a 3 and then scored a layup to put the USA ahead 68-58 at 3:51. After a Czech 3-pointer, it was Christyn Williams (Central Arkansas Christian School/Little Rock, Ark.) with a steal and score at 1:59 to help the USA take control of the game 70-61 with 1:59 left on the clock. From there Czech Republic made two free throws and Williams finished the game with a pull up jumper to bring the score to its final of 72-63.
“I thought we played well,” Williams said. “We had too many turnovers, and we started off a little slow in the second half, but we really picked the intensity up.”
In its second game the USA again was dominant on the glass, tallying a 56-41 rebounding advantage, but it committed 27 turnovers.
Williams finished with 12 points, Janelle Bailey (Providence Day School/Matthews, N.C.) added 10 points and nine rebounds and DeCosta finished with 16 rebounds.
Bailey scored the first points of game, followed by three points from Nelson-Ododa, and the USA led 5-0 at 7:54. Bailey went on to score half of the USA’s 20 first-quarter points, while Ododa finished with five to help the USA to a 20-12 lead at the first break.
“My teammates did a great job of getting me the ball and putting me in a position to score,” Bailey said of her hot start. “Czech played great defense the whole game.”
Prohaska paced the USA in the second quarter with five points, while Czech Republic hit two 3-pointers to keep the USA from pulling further away, and at the midway point the USA led 33-23.
The U.S. defense at halftime was allowing Czech to shoot just 21.6 percent from the field (8-37 FGs), however, the U.S. offense already had committed 16 turnovers.
Czech Republic heated up immediately in the second half, making two 3s in the first 56 seconds to pull within four points, 33-29. The teams traded scores for the next 5:15, and the score was 45-33 when Taylor Mikesell (Jackson H.S./Massillon, Ohio) made a 3 at 3:49. Overall in the third quarter, Czech Republic outscored the USA 23-20 to trail 53-46 headed into the fourth quarter.
“I thought we really grinded it out,” said Jenna Brown (The Lovett School/Marietta, Ga.). “Especially in the second half when things got close. They did beat us to some balls that I think we should have gotten, but overall, I think we grinded the entire game.”
The USA wraps up Group C play against Italy (2-0) at 3 p.m. (EDT) on June 25.
Also today in Group C, Italy beat South Korea (0-2) 78-67, while in Group D, Portugal (0-1) will play Brazil (0-1) at 12:15 p.m. EDT, and Spain (1-0) will take on Mali (1-0) at 12:45 p.m. EDT.
Group A and B’s second games of the tournament were played on June 23, and France (1-1) beat Mexico (0-2) 65-27; Australia (2-0) topped China (1-1) 66-41; Canada (2-0) needed overtime to defeat Latvia (0-2) 60-57; and Japan (2-0) earned a 20-0 forfeit victory over Nigeria, which did not travel to Spain to compete in the tournament.
The USA’s assistant coaches are Dianne Lewis (Thomas Edison H.S., Va.) and Samantha Quigley (University of St. Francis, Ill.).
The round of 16 will be held on June 27, and those winners will advance to the medal quarterfinals on June 29. Round of 16 losers will play out for ninth through 16th place.
The semifinals are on July 1, and the finals are on July 2.