USA Basketball E-National Team Undefeated in Group Play in 2021 FIBA Esports Open III
Competing in the FIBA Esports Open III, the 2021 USA Basketball E-National Team capped North and Central America Conference Next Gen preliminary round action with a 3-0 record on May 7 to advance to the May 9 best-of-three finals. Sunday’s games against Dominican Republic (2-1) will be played at 1:45 p.m. (all times listed are EDT), 2:20 p.m. and, if necessary, 2:55 p.m. All games will be available across FIBA’s digital channels on Facebook, Twitch and YouTube.
The USA opened the night with a 57-48 victory over Puerto Rico (1-2), followed by a 57-46 win over Dominican Republic and capped preliminary play with a 49-62 defeat of Canada (0-3).
“They’re probably going to watch film on us after this game and have a game plan for Splash, our point guard, and some new tricks to beat us, having lost to us in the finals last time,” said Dayne “OneWildWalnut” Downey (76ers GC/Los Angeles, Calif.), of the USA’s finals opponent. “They want it bad this time. They’re definitely going to come ready and we’re going to get their best punch. We thought they were the best team coming in and they almost lost to Puerto Rico, but they pulled it off (91-83 in triple overtime).
In addition to OneWildWalnut, the USA team is comprised of Alexander “Steez” Bernstein (76ers GC/Yorba Linda, Calif.); Rafel “Crush” Davis (Kings Guard Gaming/Bronx, N.Y.); Wendi “ALittleLady87” Fleming (Chattanooga, Tenn.); Malik “OriginalMalik” Hobson (KNX Gaming/Detroit, Mich.) and Kimanni “Splashy” Ingram (Jazz Gaming/Sacramento, Calif.).
“We’ve had limited reps, but we’re gelling quickly,” added OneWildWalnut. “We have some decent chemistry with the guys. Once we have a little lead and we’re moving, we’re in our best form. In the first two games, the second and third quarters are when we pulled away and everything was flowing. In the last game against Canada, we got off to a slow start and then we ended up turning it on in the second half.
“We don’t want any doubt going into the finals and we obviously want to sweep on Sunday.”
Behind a game-best 22 points from OriginalMalik and 14 points and nine boards from OneWildWalnut, the USA opened with a 57-48 win over Puerto Rico. The islanders led most of the first quarter, but the U.S. closed out the first stanza with a 13-12 edge. Shooting five 3s in the second quarter, the USA expanded its lead to 32-21 at halftime with OriginalMalik leading the way with 12 points. The USA cruised through the second half for the eventual nine-point win.
In its second game, a rematch against 2020 FIBA Esports Open II North and Central America Conference finalists Dominican Republic, the USA trailed by three points, 26-23, after the first half but came roaring out in the third quarter to jump ahead 33-26 and never looked back. Holding a 40-33 lead at the end of the third quarter, the USA hit five 3s in the final stanza to go up 57-37 before settling in for the 57-46 victory. OriginalMalik paced the U.S. with 17 points, and OneWildWalnut had 10 points and a game-best nine rebounds.
The U.S. squad closed the night with a 62-49 win over Canada, behind 24 points, seven assists and five steals from Splashy. Canada, looking for its first victory of the day, started with an early lead and was up by six points, 33-27 at halftime. However, a 15-8 third-quarter burst from the USA gave the U.S. a 42-41 lead at the end of three quarters of play. From there, the USA overpowered its neighbor to the north with a 18-0 run to open the fourth quarter and Canada never recovered.
76ers Gaming head coach Jeff Terrell is serving as the coach/advisor for the 2021 USA E-National Team for the FIBA Esports Open III.
In all, the FIBA Esports III features 60 national teams playing in eight regional conferences from April 16-May 9.
Two of the regional conferences – North and Central America and Europe -- have been split into two divisions each, featuring current generation (PS4) and next generation (PS5) teams.
In the first FIBA Esports Open in which it participated, from Dec. 19-20, 2020, USA Basketball finished with a 7-1 record and claimed the title after defeating Dominican Republic 48-45 and 60-56 in the best-of-three championship series.