USA U18 Men Fight Off Canada 99-84 To Claim Gold Medal
With only a two-point lead (84-82) and 3:57 remaining in the gold medal game, the 2016 USA Basketball Men’s U18 National Team (5-0) allowed Canada (4-1) only one more basket while it rallied to score 15 points to secure a 99-84 win and claim the gold medal at the 2016 FIBA Americas U18 Championship on Saturday night in Valdivia, Chile.
Tournament MVP Markelle Fultz (DeMatha Catholic H.S./Upper Marlboro, Md.) scored 23 points to go with five rebounds and five assists to help lead the USA 18 men to an eighth overall and fourth straight gold medal. The USA is now 53-2 all-time in men’s U18 competition.
“Canada played a really good game,” said USA U18 and University of Texas head coach Shaka Smart. “They shot the ball well from outside, particularly (Nickeil) Walker. I think our guys did a good job of keeping their composure. There were a couple times when we got up, and we let down a little bit. But then Canada made runs, our guys kept composure and made good plays.”
In the bronze medal game, Brazil (3-2) edged past Puerto Rico (2-3) 59-58. By virtue of finishing as one of the top four teams, the USA, Brazil, Canada and Puerto Rico all earned a berth into the 2017 FIBA U19 World Championship (site and dates TBD).
“For me to get MVP means a lot to me, because there’s a lot of good players here, and it’s truly and honor,” Fultz said.
Five U.S. players scored in double-digits overall, including Paul ‘P.J.’ Washington (Findlay Prep, Nev./Frisco, Texas), who added 19 points; Michael Porter Jr. (Father Tolton Catholic H.S./Columbia, Mo.), who scored 15 points and grabbed eight rebounds; Hamidou Diallo (Putnam Science Academy/Corona, N.Y.), who contributed 14 points; and Jarrett Allen (St. Stephen's Episcopal School/Round Rock, Texas), who had 10 points and eight rebounds.
“It feels amazing,” said Washington. “This is great to represent my country in this way, and I’m proud of all of the guys for winning this.”
The teams traded baskets to start the game before the USA put together a 9-0 run to lead 15-9 with 5:45 left in the first quarter. Canada responded immediately with its own 8-0 run, however, which included a 3-point play and brought the score to 17-15 in Canada’s favor with 4:33 on the clock. The USA put five more points on the board before the teams again traded baskets to close the period with the USA lead 24-23.
The lead changed hands five times in the first 3:26, before Canada’s Abu Kigab heated up from the outside. Kigab hit three 3s in the next two minutes to put Canada back in the lead 39-33 with 4:39 on the clock. The USA answered with 3s from Fultz and Trae Young (Norman North H.S./Norman, Okla.) to tie the game at 39-39 at 3:51. After another 3 from Canada and a score from each team, the Canadians led 44-41 with 2:50 to go before halftime. The USA closed the first half with seven unanswered points and led 48-44 at the midway point.
The back-and-forth affair continued in the third quarter. With the exception of two 4-0 U.S. runs and one 5-0 U.S. spurt, Canada answered every U.S. score, however, the USA improved its lead by eight points and was up 75-63 headed into the fourth quarter.
The USA had its biggest lead of the game, 15 points, at the start of the fourth quarter before Canada’s Nickeil Walker made three of his seven 3-pointers to help Canada rally from behind and pull within two points of the USA, 84-82. From there, however, the U.S. defense clamped down to close out the win. While the red, white and blue gave up only two more points after the 3:57 mark, its offense got points from four scorers, including seven from Porter Jr., and the USA pulled away with the 99-84 win.
The USA outrebounded Canada 55-38 and turned 14 Canadian turnovers into 27 points.
In the classification finals, the U.S. Virgin Islands (1-4) beat Dominican Republic (0-5) 77-63 in the seventh place game, while Argentina (3-2) topped Chile (2-3) in the fifth place game.
The USA’s assistant coaches were Kevin Ollie from University of Connecticut and Mark Turgeon from University of Maryland.