USA U19 Women Hold Off Latvia For 64-56 Victory, 2017 Refrion Cup Title
The 2017 USA Women’s U19 World Cup Team (3-0) picked up its defense and closed out the with a 10-3 run to hold off a surging Latvian (1-2) squad for a 64-56 victory and the 2017 Refrion Cup title on Wednesday night in Spilimbergo, Italy.
Ruthy Hebard (Oregon/Fairbanks, Alaska) recorded a double-double of 15 points and 11 rebounds, including four points and a pair of boards in the final minutes. Tyasha Harris (South Carolina/Noblesville, Ind.) contributed 14 points, four assists and three steals; and Chennedy Carter (Timberview H.S./Arlington, Texas) just missed a double-double after finishing with 12 points, nine rebounds and three assists.
In the final game of the U19 warm-up tournament, Spain (2-1) ran past host Italy (0-3) 60-46. Spain finished in second place, Latvia in third and Italy rounded out the standings.
“We are seeing some good things, and we are still getting a lot of good looks,” said USA U19 and University of Pittsburgh head coach Suzie McConnell-Serio. “We are just not finishing. I think we struggled to finish – you know, we played three games in three days, and I think this was just an adjustment for our players to get used to this international style.
“They play in the college game where it’s hands off the ball handler, and on drives. But, as soon as we put the ball on the floor or as soon as we are handling the basketball, there is physicality happening. There’s an arm bar, there’s hands on. You look at how physical they are in the post, and I’m really believing that this has been an adjustment for us. We played against men before coming over here in order to get ready, and they were quick and athletic. Now, you are playing against these international teams that have so much experience.”
Heading into the fourth quarter up 46-38, Hebard strung together a 5-0 run with a jumper and a traditional 3-point play, giving the USA some breathing room, 51-38, with 9:23 to play.
“I struggled at the beginning to make shots, and that frustrated me,” said Hebard. “Helping the team by making shots at the end of the game was a big lift for me and the team, so I just tried to do that.”
However, just when the Americans began to pull away, the tide turned in Latvia’s favor. Forcing the USA into shooting 1-of-6 from the field and a pair of turnovers, Latvia outscored the U.S. 15-3 over the next 5:11 and came within a point of the lead, 54-53.
“They got the ball to their primary player – (Mara) Mote – and I give her credit. She is a great player,” said Harris on Latvia’s late surge. “She took control of the game, and she took advantage of us going below screens. She would pull up for the 3, and that’s what helped them get back into the game.”
Struggling offensively for the second game in a row, the USA looked to its defense, which came on strong and turned the tables on its European opponent. Forcing Latvia into shooting 1-of-6 and two turnovers over the final 3:45 of the game, the USA got a pair of key steals from Harris as four different players scored in the red, white and blue’s final 10-3 run.
“She was huge,” said Crystal Dangerfield (Connecticut/Murfreesboro, Tenn.) on Hebard’s play down the stretch. “We were able to get the ball inside to her and she finished them. She was able to get some and-1s. She was rebounding well, too.”
Latvia opened the game with a 5-0 run, to take its largest lead of the game. Harris responded with five points of her own for a 5-5 tie and Dangerfield followed with a 3-pointer at 5:04 left in the first period, which pushed the American women ahead for good.
However, neither team was able to get much going offensively and the first quarter ended with the USA up 12-9. The teams combined to shoot 20.0 percent from the field, with the USA connecting on 21.7 percent (5-23 FGs) and Latvia shooting 17.6 percent (3-17 FGs).
Moving in front by double digits on three separate occasions in the second quarter, the USA was unable to completely shake Latvia and headed to the locker room with a 27-19 advantage.
The scoring see-sawed throughout the third period, with neither side able to string together more than a 5-0 run and the third quarter ended with the USA still up by eight points, 46-38.
In the end, the USA improved its shooting to 32.9 percent (24-73 FGs) from the floor over the 40-minute game, while holding Latvia to 28.8 percent (21-73 FGs). The USA also outrebounded Latvia 59-47.
The European side was led by Mara Mote, who scored 20 points, and Digna Strautmane, who notched a double-double with 17 points and 12 boards.
McConnell-Serio is being assisted by collegiate head coaches Kamie Ethridge from the University of Northern Colorado and Charlotte Smith from Elon University.
Six-time defending FIBA U19 World Cup gold medalists, the USA is hoping to make it a lucky seven in a row at the 12th FIBA U19 World Cup, held July 22-30 in Cividale del Friuli and Udine, Italy.
The USA squad has an additional two days to practice, which will include a scrimmage against France’s U19 squad on July 20, prior to opening 2017 U19 World Cup play against Mali on July 22.
“This experience has been very valuable,” added McConnell-Serio. “I think that the lack of international experience has led to a lot of our offensive struggles that we’ve had. Most of our players haven’t played at this level internationally. Hopefully, moving forward, we can play through them and turn the corner come tournament time.”
After opening against Mali on July 22, the USA will face China on July 23 and cap the preliminary round against host Italy on July 25. Also competing in the 16-nation tournament are Australia, Canada, Egypt, France, Hungary, Japan, Latvia, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Russia, South Korea and Spain.
Following the preliminary round, teams will be seeded according to group play, and all participating teams will advance to the July 26 round of 16. Winners will advance to the July 28 medal quarterfinals, while the remaining teams will continue playing out for classification. The medal semifinals will be held July 29, and the gold and bronze medal games are slated for July 30.
FIBA U19 World Cup for Women
Originally known as the FIBA Junior World Championship, FIBA changed the names of its age-based world championships in 2005 to reflect the age of eligibility, and recently updated the names of all of its world championships to world cups. The tournament was held every four years starting in 1985. FIBA in 2005 modified its calendar and now conducts the U19 World Cup every other year. USA women's teams are 73-12 in U19/Junior World Cups, capturing a sixth-consecutive gold in 2015 with a 7-0 record.
Notable players to represent the USA at the FIBA U19 World Championship include: Alana Beard (2001), Essence Carson (2005), Tamika Catchings (1997), Bria Hartley (2011), Crystal Langhorne (2005), Jantel Lavender (2007), Lisa Leslie (1989), Rebecca Lobo (1993), Maya Moore (2007), Nnemkadi Ogwumike (2009), Vickie Orr (1985), Cappie Pondexter (2001), Katie Smith (1993), Dawn Staley (1989), Azurá Stevens (2015), Breanna Stewart (2011 and MVP of the 2013 U19 World Championship), Diana Taurasi (2001), Morgan Tuck (2011 and 2013) and A’ja Wilson (2013 and MVP of the 2015 U19 World Championship).