U.S. Men’s Youth Olympic Games Team Eliminated After Preliminary Round
The 2018 U.S. Youth Olympic Games Men’s Basketball Team (2-2) split its final two games of the Youth Olympic Games preliminary round on Oct. 11 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and finished fourth in its pool. Despite being the only team to defeat host Argentina (3-1), the USA was eliminated from advancing to the medal round.
“They’re the host country, and that’s the craziest atmosphere I’ve ever played in front of,” said Carson McCorkle (Greensboro Day School/Greensboro, N.C.), who still has an opportunity to claim an individual medal in the Oct. 15 dunk contest. “To be able to get a win, even though the game didn’t really mean anything, just to have pride, to go out there and play our hardest and get a win in front of that big crowd was a really big deal, and it was a lot of fun.”
In a must-win situation in order to keep its medal hopes alive, the U.S. opened the day with a disappointing 21-14 loss to Estonia (2-2). With three minutes elapsed in the game, the USA trailed 6-4. However, an 8-2 run by the red, white and blue, spurred by a pair of 2s from McCorkle, seemed to change the momentum as the USA took a 12-8 lead with 5:11 to play. Then, Estonia scored to make it 12-9, and the USA called a time out.
Returning from the break, the USA was unable to contain the Europeans, and over the next 2:33 Estonia outscored the U.S. 12-2 to earn the 21-14 victory. During the final minutes the U.S. was held to 2-of-7 shooting from the field and 0-of-2 from 2-point, while Estonia was on fire on 8-of-13 from the field and 4-of-8 from beyond the arc.
Patrick McCaffery (West H.S./Iowa City, Iowa) was the USA’s high scorer against Estonia with five points, McCorkle scored four, Dudley Blackwell (Westminster Academy /Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.) added three points and Jyare Davis (Sanford School /Hockessin, Del.) chipped in two.
“It was disappointing,” said McCorkle, who averaged a team-high 7.0 points per game overall. “It’s not fun losing. When you’re with USA Basketball, you’re expected to win everything. But to lose a game, it’s not what we wanted, but it helped us to learn a lot of things, especially for that Argentina game. We learned a lot about ourselves and how we can handle the pressure. So, it was a tough loss, but I think it did help us with our last game against Argentina.”
In its final game of the 2018 Youth Olympics, the Americans easily could have hung their heads heading into a match-up against a tough and then-unbeaten host Argentina. However, the USA was determined to finish the tournament on a high note.
“We knew we were eliminated, so we wanted to finish it off on the right foot,” said Blackwell, who scored four points on Thursday and finished the tournament with 14 points in four games. “So, we wanted to finish strong, and keep our heads in it even though we knew we weren’t in the tournament anymore.”
In a back-and-forth contest that featured four lead changes and seven knotted scores, the USA raced out to a 5-1 lead, but Argentina countered with four-straight points to even the score at 5-all. Over the next four minutes neither team was able to get much separation, and the largest scoring run was a 5-0 spurt by Argentina that gave the hosts an 11-9 edge with three minutes elapsed in the 10-minute game.
From that point, with the exception of two consecutive points from Argentina, the scoring see-sawed and a McCorkle 2-pointer gave the USA a 17-16 edge with 4:23 remaining. After an Argentina timeout, the South Americans outscored the U.S. 2-1, and the game was tied for the final time, 18-18. However, McCorkle, who hit 3-of-6 from 2-point and was a perfect 4-of-4 from inside against Argentina, knocked down a 2 to put the USA within one point of victory. Argentina missed two shots on its next possession, and McCaffery ended the game with a bucket with 2:34 on the clock.
McCorkle was the game’s top scorer with 10 points, McCaffery scored seven, Davis had a tournament-best three points and Blackwell scored one.
“That was hard, because they’re on their home court,” Blackwell added. “Everybody’s going for the other team, but it motivated us a lot and we got the W. Not a lot of people can say they’re playing with USA on their chest. So, just to work hard, play hard and go out there and get the W was important for us.”
Argentina finished atop Group C, while Russia (3-1), after claiming a 22-20 overtime victory over Estonia (2-2), finished as the No. 2 team out of Group C. Both Argentina and Russia advance to the Oct. 16 quarterfinals.
Carson is one of 12 athletes who will compete in Monday’s dunk contest.
“It would be really cool to be able to bring home a medal and represent my country in that contest,” said Carson. “So, it’ll be a lot of fun. I’m very excited for it.”
Aside from not advancing to the medal round, the Youth Olympic Games experience has been a rewarding one for the USA squad.
“We’ve been bonding with the other countries, hanging out and making friends with guys around the world, hanging out and practicing, watching film, stuff like that,” said Blackwell. “It’s a lot different. You go to a tournament, and you’re used to just watching basketball games. But, there’s boxers out here, there’s every sport, really. So, I’ve been taking it in and enjoying the experience.”
The USA men competed in the 2010 Summer Youth Olympic Games and finished in fourth place with a 5-2 record. That team was comprised of , , and . The USA did not qualify a men’s team for the 2014 YOG.