USA U18 Women Capture FIBA 3x3 U18 World Cup Gold
Aquira DeCosta Selected MVP, Janelle Bailey Named All-Tournament
The USA Basketball Women’s 3x3 U18 World Cup Team (7-0) went inside early and often against previously unbeaten Czech Republic (6-1) for a 21-14 victory in the 2017 FIBA 3x3 U18 World Cup gold medal game on Sunday evening in Chengdu, China.
Aquira DeCosta (St. Mary’s H.S./Sacramento, Calif.), who scored 35 points over seven games to finish as the third-leading scorer in the tournament, was named 2017 FIBA 3x3 U18 World Cup MVP, and she was joined on the three-member Team of the Tournament by University of North Carolina freshman-to-be Janelle Bailey (Providence Day School/Matthews, N.C.), who scored a team-high 11 points against the Czech Republic and finished as the tournament’s leading scorer with 40 points and Czech Republic’s Simona Růžková.
“I’ve been a bronze medalist for two years, back-to-back,” said DeCosta, who took home bronze as a member of USA Basketball’s 2015 U16 National Team and 2016 U17 World Cup Team. “Because of that, I came out every game with such intensity. I wanted to win every game, and that’s what we did. We got the gold medal, and I’m truly blessed to be able to play with this group of girls. I’m just happy. Words can’t explain how I’m feeling right now.
“All of us played exceptionally well. I thought other players, Janelle in the post scored well, Destiny (Littleton) hit some key shots the whole tournament, Christyn (Williams) attacked really well, so I was shocked that I got MVP.”
The win produced the USA’s third gold medal in six editions of the event, the first gold since 2013 and its sixth medal overall. The U.S. previously earned gold in 2012 and 2013, silver in 2015 and 2016 and an honorary bronze medal at the inaugural event in 2011.
Russia defeated Hungary (3-4) 12-8 for the bronze medal, marking its first medal at the event. The silver medal for the Czech Republic also was its first medal in 3x3 U18 World Cup play.
“Kara (Lawson) told us before the game that we could have 100 plays and feel confident that we can execute them, but that now was about toughness, heart and who wants it more,” said Bailey. “In this game we wanted it more. All of us being bronze medalists (in previous events), we didn’t want to have that feeling of getting anything but gold. It feels good to have gold.”
Rounding out the four-member USA 3x3 U18 World Cup Team were Destiny Littleton (The Bishop’s School/San Diego, Calif.), a 5-foot-9 guard headed to play for the University of Texas in the fall, and Christyn Williams (Central Arkansas Christian School/Little Rock, Ark.), a 5-10 guard/forward who will report to 2017 USA U19 World Cup Team training camp on July 7.
Littleton completed the tournament with 32 points, while Williams scored 22 over the seven games.
“When you put this jersey on and USA is across our chests, just to play for our country and win gold means everything,” said Littleton. “The first couple of games, we’re new to this. None of my teammates have played 3x3, and it’s a lot different from five-on-five. We just stuck together and fought through.”
The Czechs knocked in a 2-pointer, the first of five on the night, with barely a second expired in the contest. But the USA responded with a 7-0 run, including four from inside the paint, one from the line and two from beyond the arc, to pull ahead 7-2 at 7:40. However, the Czechs closed the gap with a 5-0 run to pull to within one point, 7-6, at 6:12.
The contest remained close, thanks in part to three more 2-pointers by the Europeans, and with 3:30 to play the game was knotted at 13-all. DeCosta and Littleton drove to the hoop for a point each, and with 2:18 on the clock, the Czech Republic picked up its final point of the game to bring the score to 15-14.
A Littleton 2-pointer expanded the lead to 17-14, and from there it was all USA. Bailey and DeCosta combined for the next three points – all from inside the paint – and with the red, white and blue holding a 20-14 lead, Bailey picked up a loose ball, drove to the basket and sealed the golden victory with 43.6 seconds still left on the clock.
“We knew that they had four really good players, but their main player was (Alžběta Levínská), and we wanted to limit her shots,” said Bailey. “Of course when they came out of the gate, they shot the 2-pointer right at the start, but we just settled in defensively and said that that was going to be the last good shot they were going to get.
“We knew that they were a little bit shorter than some of the teams that we had played,” Bailey added. “We wanted to go to the basket, and we did a good job with that. Aquira and I were finishing well inside. Aquira, Destiny and Christyn all made good passes to me. It was definitely a team effort.”
The U.S. advanced to the gold medal game with an 18-14 quarterfinal win over two-time defending champion France (3-2) and a 17-10 victory versus Russia (5-2) in the semifinal contest.
Littleton and Williams shared high scoring honors against France with six points apiece, while Bailey and DeCosta had three points each.
Against Russia, DeCosta led with six points, Bailey and Littleton scored five apiece and Williams chipped in one point.
In quarterfinal action, France hit a couple of quick 2s and jumped to an early 5-3 lead. The USA responded with a 5-0 run to pull in front 8-5, but France hit two more 2-pointers in a 6-1 run, and with about 4:00 to play, the Americans trailed 11-9.
With 3:50 remaining, Littleton converted on a 3-point play after being fouled from beyond the arc, putting the red, white and blue in the lead for good, 12-11. With under 2:00 to play and the score still close, 14-13, the USA closed out the contest on a 4-1 spurt for the 18-14 win.
Russia held a 4-3 lead in the semifinal, but a 5-1 run that included three points from DeCosta, gave the USA some breathing room, 8-5, at 4:04. After a Russian free throw at 3:32 brought the score to 8-6, the USA went on a 7-0 run, thanks to a pair of 2s from Littleton, and with 2:10 to play the Americans were firmly in grasp of the game, 15-6, and cruised in for the win.
“Winning this gold medal feels good,” stated Bailey. “Starting in April when we won in Colorado, I was excited. I always remember the feeling from last year when we lost to Australia in the semis (at the 2016 FIBA U17 World Cup). I didn’t want to feel that again. I think that’s why we’re so close together. There’s just four of us, and now all four of us have gold medals. All the hard work we put in over the last few weeks and back in April, it paid off in this game.”
The first FIBA 3x3 U18 World Cup was held in 2011. The event is held annually, with the exception of the years in which the Youth Olympic Games are held (2018, 2022, etc.).
With seven wins in the 2017 U18 3x3 competition, USA 3x3 Women’s World Cup Teams have now compiled a 42-7 overall record in the event.