Oregon Defends Title at Red Bull USA Basketball Women’s 3x3 Nationals
Earning her second MVP award in as many years, Sabrina Ionescu (Walnut Creek, Calif.) scored 17 points and assisted on her team’s other four points in leading Oregon (6-1) to back-to-back Red Bull USA Basketball 3x3 Nationals gold medals after edging Drive (6-2) 21-20 in the gold medal game on Saturday night at the Las Vegas Downtown Events Center.
“It speaks volumes about us as individuals,” said Ionescu about winning a second-straight title. “We practice 3x3 almost every day and practice it when the season starts because our coaches value what you learn in the game. So, I think it was great for us to come out here with a new team, adding Lydia Giomi, and our post players played great, played great defense and I think what we learned here is going to help us with our season next year.”
In addition to Ionescu, also aiding Oregon to the title for the second year were Otiona Gildon (Spokane, Wash.); and Ruthy Hebard (Fairbanks, Alaska), while Lydia Giomi (Seattle, Wash.) played in her first Red Bull USA 3x3 Nationals.
Ionescu hit her first 2 early for the game’s first points, but Drive fired back and moved ahead 7-4. Oregon battled back, but Drive answered each time the Ducks got close. With Drive up 14-10, however, Ionescu went to work and scored five in a 6-0 run that put Oregon ahead 16-14.
“Pick and roll was huge for us,” said Giomi. “But, we were loose and we have good team chemistry, and we were here to have fun and not take ourselves too seriously. We then just get super competitive when we are on court, so naturally good things came about.”
Rhyne Howard (Kentucky/Cleveland, Tenn.), who scored 11 points for Drive, knocked down a two to knot the game at 16-all. The score went back and forth with 22 seconds on the clock, Janelle Bailey (North Carolina/Charlotte, N.C.) tied it up again, 20-20.
The final point fittingly was scored by Ionescu – a free throw with 13.9 seconds left on the clock to give her side the 21 points needed for the win.
“I practice free throws so many times that at that point it was just what I practice, and I was also very tired and so I realized if I could just make the free throw I could rest,” laughed Ionescu after the game.
“I see Sabrina every single day of my life, but for others, she’s something crazy,” said Giomi. “One thing you realize, even when you’re in practice – Sabrina’s team always wins.”
Oregon, which finished preliminary play in third place in Group E with a 2-1 record advanced to the championship game by defeating DePaul (1-4) 17-15 in the quarterfinals play-in game, previously unbeaten Stanford (5-1) 21-17 in the quarterfinals and eclipsed Defend (6-1) 19-13 in the semifinals.
In addition to Bailey and Ionescu, Drive’s team included Destiny Slocum (Oregon State/Meridian, Idaho); and Rebecca Hittner (Drake/Urbandale, Iowa).
After earning a 4-0 record in preliminary play, Drive advanced to the title game by defeating Michigan (2-2) 17-9 in its quarterfinals play-in game, Arizona State (1-5) 14-12 in overtime in the quarterfinals and a 20-12 victory over North Carolina State (3-3) in the semifinals.
The two-day event, which was held outside in Las Vegas for the first time since it was launched in 2012, also served as the 2019 USA Basketball Women’s 3x3 National Team trials, as all eligible athletes are in consideration for selection to the 2019 USA Women’s 2019 U.S. Pan American Games 3x3 Basketball Team. That team will be announced following the May 16-20 trials for the women’s five-on-five Pan Am Games squad.
Olympic fans will see the launch of a new basketball discipline with the inclusion of 3x3 in 2020. The exciting and fast-paced game officially was unveiled in international competition at the 2010 Youth Olympic Games and has since become a fan favorite at FIBA 3x3 World Cup events. Played on a half court with a 10-minute clock, and a 12-second shot clock, the first team to 21 points, or the team in the lead at the end of regulation, is the winner. The non-stop action of 3x3 will ensure it is one of the hottest tickets in Tokyo, and fans in Las Vegas will get an early taste of that excitement during the USA Basketball 3x3 Nationals.