U.S. Pan American Games 3x3 Men’s Team Finishes Strong to Win Gold
The U.S. men (4-3) saved their best showings of the 2019 Pan American Games 3x3 basketball competition for the final day and in the process staked claim on the first Pan American Games 3x3 gold medals. Defeating Brazil (4-3) 21-12 in the medal round semifinals, the U.S. went on to hand Puerto Rico (6-1) its first loss of the competition, recording a hard-fought 21-19 win in the gold medal game.
The U.S. men's capturing of gold, made it a sweep for the USA in the Pan American Games 3x3 basketball competition. The USA women's finished 7-0 and won gold Monday as well.
"Look, I’m glad we didn’t have to play them (the U.S. Women's 3x3 team) in the championship because they are tough," said Kareem Maddox (Princeton/Los Angeles, Calif.). "We were able to see a lot of their games and they’re just hard-nosed, great basketball players. That group right there for us was an inspiration because they showed us the right way to play 3x3 and that’s something we had to come together and learn very quickly, so we knew it was possible because we just watched them do it. For both teams to take the inaugural 3x3 tournament at a Pan American Games is incredibly special and we couldn’t have asked to do that with a kinder, more impressive group of women than those four."
The U.S. men went 1-3 in its first four preliminary round games, losing the three games by a total of five points. Winning Sunday's final preliminary round game versus Dominican Republic in a must-win game if the USA was to advance into the medal semifinals, the U.S. ended the tournament riding a three-game win streak.
"I think what happened was when we got to 1-3, I think we all felt that feeling like, ‘ahhh man, we blew it,' and then (USA advisor) Kara Lawson came and told us ‘oh no, you’re still in it.' So we gained a form of desperation, where it was like we can’t let this go. In the last three games we played incredibly hard, some of the hardest I’ve ever played, because we realized what was on the line and we were this close to losing it. We kind of got desperate, which was a good thing in a way," said Sheldon Jeter (Maine Red Claws/Beaver Falls, Pa.).
"I think No. 1 was staying together because it would have been very easy to turn around pointing fingers, trying to figure out where to place the blame," said Maddox on what the key was for the USA to get on the winning track. "So we had a decision to make. I think actually there’s probably no such thing as a good loss, but those were about as good of losses as you could have because we learned a lot from them. And we did it, we stuck together and won that Dominican Republic game that we needed to and something coach (Kara Lawson) said was, ‘we’ll get better through the tournament and we need to peak at the right time. I think as evidenced by the gold for the men and women, both teams peaked at the right time."
Having suffered a narrow 20-18 loss to Puerto Rico in preliminary play on July 28, the U.S. men turned the tables the second time around.
In a game in which the biggest lead for either team was three points, the U.S. and Puerto Rico jousted for control of the game.
Puerto Rico led 8-7 with 5:36 to play, but a 2-pointer by Jon Octeus (Windy City Bulls/Miami, Fla.) propelled the USA to a 9-8 lead. Puerto Rico tied the game at 9, but Maddox connected on a 2-pointer, and the U.S. had an 11-9 lead. Maddox drained his second 2-pointer at 3:59, and the Americans led 13-10.
Puerto Rico battled back and grabbed a 14-13 lead with 3:10 to go, but the U.S. wouldn’t let go of the game. Jeter scored and completed the two-point play by sinking the free throw awarded, and Jeter scored again at 2:39 to lift the U.S. ahead 16-14. Puerto Rico rallied once more, and Angel Matias sank a 2 to even the score 19-all with 1:28 to play.
Octeus was fouled on a drive to the basket, and with Puerto Rico over the foul limit, calmly sank his two free throws with 1:19 remaining to capture gold and the win. Octeus and Jeter paced the U.S. scoring 8 points each, while Maddox added four points and Jones contributed one point.
In the semifinal clash, the U.S. recorded a dominant 21-12 victory over Brazil. The win, which came with 1:16 remaining in the contest, avenged the USA’s 20-19 loss to Brazil in Saturday’s preliminary round action.
The U.S. was in control of this game from the start. The U.S. sprinted out to a 4-0 lead thanks to 2-point baskets from Octeus and Dominique Jones (Fort Hays State/Harlem, N.Y.), however, Brazil battled back and the U.S. lead was 9-8 with 5:55 remaining in the contest. The U.S. regained momentum when Maddox scored three points and Jones added a 2-pointer as the U.S. scored five straight points to take control, 14-8 with 4:52 to play.
Up 16-10, Octeus made his third 2-pointer of the game, and Jeter followed up with a 2-pointer of his own to increase the USA lead to 20-11 with 1:35 left. Maddox added a free throw with 1:16 remaining to give the U.S. the 21-12 win. Brazil was limited to 0-of-8 shooting from 2-point while the U.S. made 6-of-16 2-point attempts. Octeus finished with eight points, Jones and Maddox each chipped in five points, and Jeter added three points.
USA men’s 3x3 teams have now claimed gold at the FIBA 3x3 World Cup, FIBA 3x3 U18 World Cup and Pan American Games.
"It’s been really a great summer as far as 3x3 and playing for Team USA and USA Basketball," said Maddox, who was also a part of the gold medalist USA 3x3 World Cup Team. "Because we accomplished a couple of firsts. Winning the Pan American Games, that’s no small deal, it’s not insignificant. Winning the World Cup was a huge achievement."