Semifinal Win Over Spain Punches USA Women’s Ticket to Olympic 3x3 Debut
The USA 3x3 Women’s National Team (6-0) earned a 21-10 quarterfinal win over Belarus (2-3) and a 21-13 semifinal win over Spain (4-2) at the FIBA 3x3 Olympic Qualifying Tournament on May 30 in Graz, Austria, to qualify the USA women for the inaugural Olympic 3x3 basketball event this summer in Tokyo.
“All the training, all the effort by all the coaches, all the quarantine, it paid off,” said Allisha Gray (Dallas Wings/South Carolina/Sandersville, Ga.), who was the USA’s leading scorer in the competition with 39 points (6.5 ppg.). “We didn't come all the way out here not to win and be able to qualify for the Olympics. We came out here and achieved what we had to do.”
The USA and France, the other semifinal winner, along with Japan, winner of the third-place game, earned historic Olympic berths.
Plum was named to the three-member FIBA 3x3 Olympic Qualifying All-Tournament Team and was joined by Migna Touré of France and Japan's Stephanie Mawuli, who was also selected MVP of the competition.
“We fought really hard,” said Stefanie Dolson (Chicago Sky/Connecticut/Port Jervis, N.Y.), who added 34 points (5.7 ppg.). “We knew this was going to be a tough game and just really proud of how we performed.”
The U.S. offense was balanced overall, with Kelsey Plum (Las Vegas Aces/Washington/Poway, Calif.) recording 32 points (5.3 ppg.) and Katie Lou Samuelson (Seattle Storm/Connecticut/Huntington Beach, Calif.) with 22 points (3.7 ppg.) – averaging a total of 21.2 ppg. as a team.
Against Spain in the semifinal, the USA got out to a 6-2 lead, but with a 2-pointer at 6:30 Spain pulled within one point, 7-6. The USA immediately responded, and Dolson, Plum and Gray added points to push the Americans in front 13-6. From there Spain would get no closer than four points, 14-10 at 2:34.
To cap the win, Plum dished to Dolson for a score inside that made it 21-13 with 21.2 seconds on the clock. Dolson and Gray each finished with seven points, Plum had four and Samuelson scored all three of her points from the line.
The USA only gave up two 2s to Spain in the game.
“I think the biggest overall thing for both games, which is what (coach) Kara (Lawson) has always emphasized, is at the end of the day, it is our pace that helps us win,” Plum said. “We continue to find a way to win, and it was really cool to see that happen, especially in the Spain game, because it was pretty close, it was back and forth. So, we’re just really excited. I love this team, and we have a lot of fun.”
In the quarterfinal against Belarus, it took a minute for either team to get on the board, but the USA built a 6-1 lead at the first media timeout at 6:26. Unlike in previous games, the USA scored by 1s only until the 3:35 mark. Samuelson, who finished with five points, made a 2 to bring the score to 14-6. Gray had four of her six points in the final few minutes, alternating scores with Plum, who made her second 2 to end the game at 21-10 with 1:41 on the clock.
Plum finished with seven points, Gray had six and Dolson had three.
“I think the pool play games really prepared us for today,” Samuelson said. “We really feel like we were hitting our stride in our two games.”
While coaches are not allowed during 3x3 games, Kara Lawson has served as the USA 3x3 Women’s coach/advisor since 2017.
In its first Olympic showing, 3x3 basketball will feature eight men’s and eight women’s teams competing from July 24-28.
Four women’s and four men’s teams qualified for the Tokyo Olympic 3x3 competition in November of 2019 based on their FIBA 3x3 national federation rankings, including women’s teams: China, Mongolia, Romania and Russia; and men’s teams: China, Russia, Serbia and host Japan.
The eighth-and-final Olympic 3x3 berths will go to the women’s and men’s winner at the FIBA 3x3 Universal Qualifying Tournament that will be played June 4-6 in Debrecen, Hungary. That event will include six women’s and six men’s teams from countries that did not have a basketball team at the 2012 or 2016 Olympic Games.
3x3 basketball is played with a 12-second shot clock on a half court. Baskets inside the arc and free throws are worth one point, and baskets made from outside the arc are worth two points. The winner is the first team to score 21 points, or the leading team at the end of the 10-minute game clock.