USA U17 Women Fight For Scrimmage Win Against Australia
Locals who live near to Utebo gym in Zaragoza, Spain, and who wandered in to watch a scrimmage between the USA and Australia women’s U17 national teams on Monday evening were treated to much more than just a friendly, warm-up match.
What was meant to be a chance for both teams to further prepare ahead of the 2016 FIBA U17 World Championship that opens on June 22 became, first, a lopsided competition and then a passionate comeback as the USA rallied from down by 19 points with 2:33 to go in the third quarter to fight to a 70-67 win.
Though technically the game, and the win, meant nothing, you would not have been able to tell.
“The heart, the desire, the never-say-die attitude, they showed a lot of character,” said USA head coach Dori Oldaker (Mt. Lebanon H.S., Pa.). “Not only the players on the floor, but the players on the bench who were cheering and inspiring their teammates and pushing them forward. I saw a lot of great hustle opportunities and fifty-fifty balls that we were getting.”
The USA found itself down 23-12 after the first quarter and 43-26 at halftime.
“The first half was a little iffy,” said 5-foot-10 USA guard Abby Prohaska (Lakota West H.S./Liberty Township, Ohio). “We could have come out with more energy. In the locker room at halftime, we were talking about how we needed to pick up the intensity and really communicate on defense and just shut them down. I think we did that, and it really showed during the second half.”
Despite its renewed effort, the USA found itself behind 59-40 at 2:33 in the third quarter, which was the largest lead for Australia in the game.
From there, however, Christyn Williams (Central Arkansas Christian School/Little Rock, Ark.) scored and then found Samantha Brunelle (William Monroe H.S./Ruckersville, Va.) for a fast-break bucket and the USA was off and running. Overall, the USA closed the third period with a 12-0 run to make it 59-52 headed into the final 10 minutes.
“We were all pretty nervous on the bench, as any team would be, but I feel like we kept our composure and really brought out all of our hard work and gave it our all,” Prohaska said.
That seven-point margin remained for much of the fourth period, and it was not until the last 2:42 that the USA made its move when Williams stole the ball and pulled up in the lane. Maya Dodson (St. Francis H.S./Alpharetta, Ga.) scored, and then Destanni Henderson (Fort Myers H.S./Fort Myers, Fla.) made two free throws after being fouled while attacking the basket. The USA took its first lead of the second half when Aquira DeCosta (St. Mary’s H.S./Stockton, Calif.) was fouled on an attempt after an offensive rebound and made both free throws to put the USA up by one, 68-67, with 15.2 seconds remaining. The USA all-but sealed the win when Williams stole the ball on the next Australian possession and was fouled in transition, and then made both of her free throws.
After a timeout and with seven seconds on the clock, Australia did not get its final shot attempt off before the buzzer sounded and the USA had the hard-fought, come-from-behind scrimmage win, 70-67.
“We learned how to play with each other when things got tough, and we learned how to get through adversity, and I think it brought us closer, which is always a good thing,” Prohaska said. “It felt amazing.”
While a scrimmage typically is about refining offenses and experimenting with line ups, the USA’s contest against Australia ended up showing the team something different.
“It kind of felt like a real game,” Prohaska said. “I think it taught us mentally to stay in the game and to keep our composure even when times get tough. I think we will.”
After two practices on June 21, USA opens play in the 2016 FIBA U17 World Championship against South Korea at 8:30 p.m. (2:30 p.m. EDT) on June 22. All games will be streamed at https://www.youtube.com/user/FIBAWorld.