USA Men Defeat Argentina 90-75 in FIBA Americas U16 Gold Medal Clash
USA Men Win Seventh Straight FIBA Americas U16 Gold Medal
The USA’s path to a seventh consecutive FIBA Americas U16 Championship gold medal wasn’t all smooth sailing, and in the end the Americans overcame Argentina (5-1) 90-75 on Sunday night in Xalapa, Mexico, to finish 6-0 and again claim gold.
On a night when the USA struggled with its shooting and just putting points on the board in the first half, it dominated the game’s final 12:22 and outscored Argentina 43-28 to take the victory.
Robert Dillingham (Combine Academy/Hickory, N.C.), who finished with 31 points (9-29 FGs, 5-11 3pt FGs, 8-12 FTs) to set the USA single-game U16 scoring record, and averaged 15.7 points and a team-high 6.2 assists a game for the tournament, was named MVP of the FIBA Americas U16 Championship. Joining Dillingham on the All-Tournament Team was Ronald Holland (Duncanville H.S./Dallas, Texas) who finished with 21 points and 12 rebounds in the gold medal game, and averaged team-highs of 19.0 points and 10.2 rebounds a game in the USA’s six victories.
“I wasn’t expecting it (MVP honors) because I feel like really one of my teammates should have got it, but I’m happy and I feel like I need to keep working,” said 6-foot-1 Dillingham. “I really wasn’t focused on myself, I was just focused on winning the game. That was the outcome (winning gold) and however I had to get it. I guess the points just came. I’m just happy with myself and happy for the team also."
With the win, the USA extended its undefeated record in U16 play to 37-0, while taking its seventh straight gold medal.
“This feels amazing, I’m glad we got it done,” stated Holland. “All the stuff we’ve been through since May (USA Junior National Team minicamp), to the (U16) training camp, to building this team, it took a lot. To be around these guys was great, it wasn’t an easy job but we got it done.”
"It’s crazy!” said Dillingham, echoing teammate Holland’s comments on winning the gold medal. “This is something a lot of people never accomplish in their life and we accomplished it as a team and it’s just crazy. I’m just very happy for my team and also me.”
Entering the gold medal game averaging 122.2 points a game, the USA couldn’t buy a hoop in the first quarter and found itself trailing 20-11 after the first 10 minutes. The Americans shot a miserable 11.1% (2-18 FGs) from the field, and in fact, scored more points from the foul line, seven, than the field (four).
Trailing 26-13 with 7:57 left in quarter two, the U.S. closed out the quarter riding a 17-5 offensive run, but still lagged behind Argentina at the intermission, 31-30.
“It wasn’t supposed to be easy, it’s the gold medal game,” said Sharman White (Pace Academy, Ga.), USA U16 National Team head coach.
“We thought we got some good looks in the first half, the ball seemed like it wouldn’t go in, it would go in and out. I think we ended up shooting 1-for-14 from 3 that whole first half, which again is not like us. We kept telling the kids to keep playing hard, keep defensing, and we started getting stops. I thought we did a great job of closing the gap before half, and I knew once we got to halftime the way we were playing defensively we were going to be able to make adjustments and be able to come out in the second half and try to take control of the game.
“Defense was the key absolutely. I told the kids, ‘defense wins gold medals, offense just tells you by how much.’ I think they really bought into that, they understood it, we made it part of our formula and that was a key throughout this whole thing. I thought our defense stood tall even when shots weren’t falling. The kids just continued to play which is a testament to the kind of players they are and just having that USA Basketball DNA when we selected them,” added White.
With 2:42 remaining in the third quarter and the game tied 47-47, the red, white and blue closed out the period with a 12-3 scoring run to open a 59-50 lead.
The U.S. posted more points in the fourth quarter than they had in the first two periods, and outscored Argentina 31-25 to take home the gold with the 90-75 win. Having made just 4-of-24 3-pointers entering the final period, the USA finally found its shooting eye and connected on 7-of-13 3s.
Adding to the USA offensive efforts versus Argentina were David Castillo (Bartlesville H.S./Bartlesville, Okla.), who scored 14 points on 4-of-7 3-point shooting, while Jalen Lewis (Overtime Elite/Oakland, Calif.) finished with 10 points and seven rebounds.
The U.S. ended the night shooting 41.6% (32-77 FGs) from the field overall, 29.7% (11-37 3-pt FGs) from 3-point, and 68.2% (15-22 FTs) from the foul line.
Limiting Argentina to 43.3% (26-60) shooting from the floor, including 36.4% (12-33 3pt FGs) from beyond the 3-point arc, the USA defense forced Argentina into 20 turnovers. The USA outrebounded Argentina 51-34, including 20-to-8 on the offensive glass, which resulted in the USA outscoring Argentina 25-7 in second chance points.
“I am extremely proud of these guys. In these kinds of conditions, when we’re dealing with a pandemic and for them to discipline themselves to be able to go out of the country, be away from their families for three weeks, and to be able to go through everything they had to endure and come away with a gold medal … I just proud of each and every one of them. I’m proud of the staff, they did a great job of trying to keep everything together,” added White.
In other finals action Sunday, Canada (4-2) beat Dominican Republic (3-3) 92-76 in the bronze medal game, Brazil (3-3) held off Mexico (1-5) 73-60 in the 5th/6th place game, and Puerto Rico (2-4) bettered Chile (0-6) 73-46 in the 7th/8th place game.
Assisting White with the 2021 USA U16 National Team are assistant coaches Eric Flannery (St. Edward H.S., Ohio) and Steve Turner (Gonzaga College H.S., D.C.).
A biennial event launched in 2009 and open to athletes 16 years old or younger, the FIBA Americas U16 Championship features eight national teams from North, South and Central America and the Caribbean.