Thrilling Semifinals Lead Into Final Day Matchup At U23 Training Camp
Two thrilling tournament semifinal matchups kicked off the morning in Colorado Springs, Colorado, at the USA Women’s U23 National Team training camp on Thursday.
The semifinal winners advance to Friday’s gold medal game (11:30 a.m. EDT), which will be streamed live on USAB.com/live.
- Team 1 versus Team 3: The morning’s first semifinal matchup proved to be a thriller between Jamelle Elliott’s (Cincinnati) Team 1 (0-4) and Cori Close’s (UCLA) Team 3 (3-1). Close’s squad won the first contest, played Wednesday morning, 77-71, but Elliott’s group was back for vengeance, and led at the half, 28-25. Team 1 stretched out a 47-37 advantage with one minute to play in the third quarter, but a 9-0 run shortly into the fourth quarter from Team 3 cut the deficit. Down 55-52 with 3:38 to play, Team 3 mounted another 9-0 attack to take control of the game, and didn’t let up from there, winning 65-60.
Kelsey Mitchell (Ohio State/Cincinnati, Ohio) led three Team 3 players in double figures with 13 points. Hallie Thome (Michigan/Chagrin Falls, Ohio) and Gabby Williams (Connecticut/Sparks, Nev.) added 12 points apiece for Close’s team. Jackie Young (Notre Dame/Princeton, Ind.) scored a game-high 16 points for Team 1 in the loss.
“We were mentally tough,” said Thome, on the win. "Just having this be our third full day, and the last day is tomorrow – we are all mentally tired and a bit exhausted, so finding that fourth or fifth gear to push us through was what helped us. We have all clicked after these few games, so we know what to do and where to put our teammates to make the right play at the end of the game.”
- Team 2 versus Team 3: What looked to be a drop in intensity in game two of the morning turned out to be anything but that between Team 2 (3-1), coached by Michelle Clark-Heard (Western Kentucky), and Team 4 (2-2), headed up by Courtney Banghart (Princeton). Team 2 built a gap from the outset, leading 19-12 after the opening eight minutes and 45-35 at the half. Banghart’s squad chipped away at the lead and eventually knotted the game at 65 with four minutes to play. But, a series of determined offensive possessions and clutch free throw shooting, aided by a a 30-plus-foot heave by Arike Ogunbowale (Notre Dame/Milwaukee, Wis.) as the shot clock wound down with 12 seconds to play in the game, helped lift Team 2 to victory, 79-71.
A balanced scoring effort proved to be the deciding factor for Team 2, with five players in double figures. Azura Stevens (Connecticut/Raleigh, N.C.) poured in 15 points for Team 2, while three players – Ariel Atkins (Texas/Duncanville, Texas), Jordin Canada (UCLA/Los Angeles, Calif.) and Ogunbowale – pitched in 14 points apiece. Team 4’s Asia Durr (Louisville/Douglasville, Ga.) matched Stevens with a game-high 15 points.
“There were a lot of runs in that game,” said Ogunbowale. “They made that big one in the second half to make it close, but our team came together and we finished it out. We’re going to have to play like we did today and a couple of the other games to win tomorrow. We have to look for each other and make the extra pass.”
- Gold Medal Matchup: Team 2 versus Team 3 at 11:40 a.m. EDT (Aug. 4)
- Michelle Clark-Heard on what she’s liked from Team 2 through four games: “Our energy and our focus. They’ve played very, very well together, except for our game last night. I was really proud of our bounce back today. It starts on the defensive end for us. Jordin (Canada) and Ariel (Atikins), they step up and do a lot of great things. Azura (Stevens), she makes shots. Our team really plays well together.”
- Cori Close on how she’s seen Team 3 improve after four games: “It’s been fun to watch them truly adjust and get better with every experience. With each game, they’ve done a great job of learning each other quickly, and learning how we play our best. They’ve used each experience to grow, and that’s not easy to do in this pressurized environment. They are trying to blend their desire to show well for the committee individually and then also try to make their team better. That is fun to watch."