USA U17 Women Stifle Hungary 84-39, Will Play France for Gold
In another display of defensive prowess, the 2018 USA Basketball Women’s U17 World Cup Team (6-0) held Hungary (5-1) to 23.7 percent shooting from the floor as it handed the European squad its first loss of the 2018 FIBA U17 World Cup in a 84-39 semifinal victory. The USA will go up against also unbeaten France (6-0) on July 29 (1:30 p.m. EDT on ESPN+) in the hope of securing its fourth gold medal in five U17 World Cups.
Earlier in the evening, France erased a 15-point halftime deficit to earn a 68-58 victory over Australia (5-1) in the day’s first semifinal contest. Australia will take on Hungary in the bronze medal game (11 a.m. EDT on ESPN+).
Jordan Horston (Columbus Africentric Early College/Columbus, Ohio), on 9-of-12 shooting, led the U.S. scoring with 18 points and also contributed four assists and four steals; Fran Belibi (Regis Jesuit H.S./Centennial, Colo.) scored 11 points; Paige Bueckers (Hopkins H.S./St. Louis Park, Minn.) contributed 10 points, six rebounds and three assists; Haley Jones (Archbishop Mitty H.S./Santa Cruz, Calif.) added nine points and Aliyah Boston (Worcester Academy/St. Thomas, USVI) chipped in eight.
“I’m just really, really excited to be in the championship game,” said Carla Berube, USA U17 and Tufts University head coach. “This was our goal all along, from when we started with trials in May. I’m really excited for the team to be playing on this stage, and to have had a game like we did in the semifinals against a very tough Hungary team.
“We’ll get them prepared for a really talented, tough French team that, when it looked like the chips were down in their game, really fought back. We’re excited to be playing a really talented team like that.”
Owning a 10-7 lead with 4:25 left in the opening quarter, the U.S. got rolling and outscoring Hungary 20-3 over the remainder of the quarter, the USA led 30-10 after 10 minutes of play.
Outscoring Hungary 15-12 in quarter two, the American squad headed to the locker room at halftime leading 45-22. In the game’s first half, the USA scored 32 points in the paint and of its 20 made field goals, 15 were assisted on.
In the first 10 minutes of play, the USA capitalized for 18 points off 10 Hungary turnovers and already had 10 assist and five steals.
“We all really pride ourselves on our defense,” said Belibi. “We’re a very defensive-minded team. A lot of our offense comes from how well we play defense.”
The USA edged Hungary 15-12 in the second quarter and headed to the locker room with a 45-22 advantage.
Any second-half comeback hopes Hungary may have been harboring were quickly dashed, however. Receiving points from four different players, the USA opened the second half on a 12-0 push in less than four minutes to put the game well out of reach, 57-22.
“We know the third quarter is always really important,” said Jones. “It’s always a big quarter to clinch the lead and kill the hopes of the other team, to make sure they are not going to make a run. We want to set a tone to start the second half.”
Hungary hit a pair of 3s in a 7-2 spurt, its only points of the period, but the Americans scored 11-straight points to close the quarter ahead 70-29.
The USA’s lead ballooned to 50 points, 79-29, its largest of the night, and outscored Hungary 14-10 in the final period to close out the night.
“The chemistry with these girls over the past month has gotten so great,” said Horston. “Our defense, we just trust each other. It’s good knowing that if I’m going to slide over and help, then somebody is going to help with my player.”
Cameron Brink (Southridge H.S./Beaverton, Ore.) was the team’s leading rebounder with seven, to go with six points, as the USA outrebounded Hungary 56-33. Additionally, Jones passed out six of the team’s 26 assists.
In all, the USA scored 38 points off of 22 Hungarian turnovers. The U.S. overpowered Hungary in the paint with a 62-12 scoring advantage and outscored Hungary 26-4 points in transition and 37-15 points off the bench.
“France is a really solid, versatile team,” added Jones. “They have a lot of different weapons that they can use. They go pretty deep. So, they’re kind of similar to us in a lot of ways. It’ll be a tight game tomorrow, but hopefully we’ll come out on top.”
In the 13th-16th places classification semifinal games today, Colombia (1-5) defeated Angola (0-6) 49-44 and Argentina (3-3) edged Belarus (1-5) 61-58; in the 9th-12th places semifinals, Mali (2-4) defeated New Zealand (1-5) 66-64 in overtime and Canada (4-2) beat China (2-4)/74-59; while in the 5th-8th places semifinals, Italy (4-2) dispatched Latvia (2-4) 86-59 and Spain (3-3) squeaked past Japan (3-3) 69-68.
Berube is being assisted by Lubbock Christian University head coach Steve Gomez and Winward School (Calif.) head coach Vanessa Nygaard.
FIBA U17 World Cup for Women
The FIBA U17 World Cup for Women, which is held every two years, originated in 2010. The USA captured the 2010 FIBA U17 World Cup gold medal. Also claiming gold in 2012 and 2014, the USA's winning streak at the FIBA U17s was halted in 2016 by eventual gold medalist Australia in the semifinal game. The USA, however, rebounded to claim bronze with a 6-1 record. Including its six victories in Minsk, the USA is now 35-1 all-time in the five editions of the event.
Some of the players who have competed for USA Women’s U17 National Teams include: Lindsay Allen (2012), Diamond DeShields (2012), Rebecca Greenwell (2012), Joyner Holmes (2014), Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis (2010), Ariel Massengale (2010), Olivia Nelson-Ododa (2016), Mercedes Russell (2012), Katie Lou Samuelson (2016), Breanna Stewart (2010), Christyn Williams (2016) and Elizabeth Williams (2010).