USA Women Advance to Youth Olympics Medal Quarterfinals Undefeated
Behind the strong inside presence of 6-foot-4 forward Aliyah Boston (Worcester Academy/St. Thomas, USVI), the U.S. Youth Olympic Games Women’s Basketball Team (4-0) earned a pair of victories, 21-4 versus Egypt (0-3) and 21-9 over previously unbeaten Ukraine (3-1), on Oct. 12 at the 2018 Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
With its perfect record, the U.S. advances undefeated out of the preliminary round and into the Oct. 16 quarterfinals as the top seed out of Group B, and will play the No. 2 seed from Group D for the right to advance to the Oct. 17 medal semifinals. Group D, which caps its preliminary games on Oct. 14, features Australia (2-0), Czech Republic (1-1), Netherlands (1-1), Spain (1-1) and Estonia (0-2).
“She’s made a huge impact,” said Samantha Brunelle (William Monroe H.S./Ruckersville, Va.) of Boston, who led the USA’s scoring with 16 points over Friday’s two contests. “It’s always nice to have her. She’s a threat everywhere. You look at her and her size, and you don’t think she’s as quick as smaller post players, but Aliyah’s so quick. She can move her feet on defense. She can post up and get any shot she wants in the post. It’s great to have her in there, especially for rebounding.”
In its first game of the day, the USA put up the three points before allowing Egypt its first field goal, a 2-pointer. Paige Bueckers (Hopkins H.S./Eden Prairie, Minn.) responded with a 2, which launched a 15-0 run that put the game out of reach, 18-2, with 4:13 to play. Egypt scored its second field goal of the game, another 2-pointer at 3:49, but the USA scored the next three to end the game at 21-4 with 3:01 remaining on the clock.
Boston led the way with eight points, nine boards and five assists; Brunelle scored six points; Bueckers notched four points and dished out seven assists; while Hailey Van Lith (Cashmere High School/Wenatchee, Wash.) finished with three points, three assists and three steals.
The USA scored 16 points in the paint, collected 12 points off of 14 turnovers, dished out 16 assists on 20 field goals, and outrebounded Egypt 17-5.
Both the USA and Ukraine headed into the second contest owning identical 3-0 records, both teams assured of a spot in the quarterfinals. However, what was unknown was the seeding of the teams as the winner would earn the coveted No. 1 spot out of the group.
“The game plan was that we really had to be physical,” said Brunelle of her team’s strategy against Ukraine. “If they beat us physically, we wouldn’t succeed. So, we had to play just as physical as they were playing. We had to make sure we contained their shooters, because they had a couple 2-point shooters who were pretty good.”
The U.S. never trailed and raced out to a 5-0 lead before Ukraine put up its first of four 2-pointers of the game. Two more points by the USA were countered by another 2 from Ukraine and the USA’s lead was cut to 7-4 with three minutes elapsed.
Another 5-0 run, all coming from in the paint, however, gave the Americans some breathing room, 12-4. Ukraine halted the run with a 2-pointer, but the USA countered with a 7-1 spurt to take a 19-7 lead with 46 seconds on the clock. Ukraine scored its final 2-pointer four seconds later, but the game’s closing two points came inside from Boston to end the game 21-9 with 19 seconds remaining.
Boston, who was 8-of-10 from the field, led the USA with eight points, eight rebounds and three blocked shots; Bueckers had six points, two assists and two blocks; Brunelle finished with four points, five boards and three assists; while Van Lith notched three points, four caroms, two assists and two steals.
Ukraine was forced into shooting just 1-of-10 from inside the arc and a slightly better 4-of-19 from 2-point, while the USA went 17-of-24 from inside and 1-of-2 from beyond the arc.
“I thought we contained them very well, but there’s still work to be done,” added Brunelle. “We’re not satisfied yet.”
The top two finishing teams from each of the Youth Olympic Games’ four preliminary round groups advance to the quarterfinals on Oct. 16, where Hungary (4-0 / A1) will play C2, the USA (B1) will play D2, C1 will play China (3-1 / A2) and D1 will play Ukraine (B2).
Whichever team the faces will be a challenge, they’ll have had an opportunity to scout the U.S. squad, and will attempt to attack any perceived weakness.
Brunell isn’t worried about that, however.
“The good thing about us is that we have so many players who can do both things, score from the inside or outside, so whichever one they try to take away, we can do well in the other,” she said. “So, we just have to get the shots we need in practice and stay ready on the outside.
“Staying physical the whole game is something we really need to work on moving forward,” Brunelle added. “We have spurts of that. But, if we can play a whole game playing as physical as we can, we should be good to go. We have to work on that and making the right plays for each other, which we’re doing a pretty good job with right now. We have a lot of chemistry.”
A multi-sport event, the Summer Youth Olympic Games are being held Oct. 6-18 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and the basketball competition is being played under FIBA 3x3 rules.
The basketball competition at the Youth Olympic Games is organized by the IOC and FIBA. The 2018 Games includes 20 men’s teams and 20 women’s teams, as well as a dunk contest for men and a shoot-out contest for women.
Bueckers and Brunelle have been selected to represent the USA in the Oct. 16 shoot-out contest, which gives each athlete another shot at a medal in Buenos Aires.
“That’s the goal,” exclaimed Brunelle about the opportunity to win an individual medal. “That would be great.”
The quarterfinal winners will play in the semifinals on Oct. 17. The semifinal winners will compete in the gold medal game on Oct. 17 (1 p.m. EDT), and the semifinal losers will battle for the bronze medal that same day (12 p.m. EDT).
The USA women have competed in both prior editions of the Summer Youth Olympic Games and own a 19-1 record overall, and have captured gold at in 2014 and bronze in 2010. Briyona Canty, Andraya Carter, Amber Henson and Kiah Stokes teamed up on the 2010 squad, while the 2014 USA team was comprised of De’Janae Boykin, Napheesa Collier, Arike Ogunbowale and Katie Lou Samuelson.