USA U16 Women Sail Past Mexico 121-30, Into Gold Medal Game
Behind another well-rounded team effort that saw all 12 players score, including six in double digits, the USA Women’s U16 National Team (5-0), raced past Mexico (2-3) 121-30 in semifinal action at the 2021 FIBA Americas U16 Championship on Saturday night in Leon, Mexico. The USA will face also undefeated Canada (5-0) in Sunday’s gold medal game at 9:30 p.m. (all times listed are EDT), which will be streamed live at YouTube.com/FIBA.
Earlier in the evening, Canada defeated Argentina (2-3) 74-47 to secure its spot in the championship game. Argentina and Mexico will play for bronze at 6:30 p.m.
“It feels terrific to be heading into the gold medal game,” said USA head coach Sue Phillips (Archbishop Mitty H.S., Calif.). “We’re playing high level basketball for the most part, and I’m really pleased with where we are right now.
“Canada is talented and really well coached. They will certainly be a formidable opponent. We’ve been studying them all week. We’re hoping that we can bring our best basketball of the week tomorrow to the gold medal game. I know we will certainly do our best to put our best foot forward.”
Breya Cunningham (La Jolla Country Day School/Chula Vista, Calif.) led the USA with 18 points on 8-of-10 from the field, nabbed a game-high tying seven rebounds and had three blocked shots. JuJu Watkins (Sierra Canyon High School/Los Angeles, Calif.) scored 16 points, hauled in seven caroms, dished out six assists and had three steals; Jada Williams (La Jolla Country Day/San Diego, Calif.) scored 15 points; Olivia Olson (Benilde-St. Margaret's/New Hope, Minn.) contributed 13 points; Grace Slaughter (Grain Valley H.S./Grain Valley, Mo.) added 12 points and Delaney Thomas (St. John's College H.S./Charles Town, W.Va.) chipped in 10 points and six boards. Jadyn Donovan (Sidwell Friends School, D.C./Upper Marlboro, Md.), who scored eight points, dished out a game-best seven of the USA’s U16 single-game record 33 assists.
“It feels good,” said Cunningham of being undefeated heading into the gold medal game. “But, we can’t really let that get to us because our toughest game is going to be Canada tomorrow. We’ll focus on executing our plays, continue playing together and playing smart. If we do that, we should be fine.”
As it had in its previous four games, the USA struck first and never trailed, going up 9-0 and 17-2 to open the game. Mexico, however, hung around and after scoring two straight buckets to pull to 25-12 with 3:46 to play in the first quarter, Phillips called a timeout.
Any hopes Mexico might have harbored about sticking with the U.S. squad were quickly dashed. Returning from the break, the USA clamped down on defense and closed the first quarter on a 15-2 run, including six-straight points to cap opening frame to go ahead 40-14.
“It was a discussion about our defense,” said Phillips on what she said to the team. “I was concerned at how it appeared Mexico was having their way with what they wanted to do in the half court. We take pride in our defense, and it was definitely not a great reflection of what we have been trying to do. Credit to our team, we held them to two points in the second quarter in a half-court, player-to-player defense.”
The red, white and blue scored the first 10 points of the second quarter and after Mexico’s only field goal of the period, the U.S. reeled off 24-straight points to take an insurmountable 74-16 lead into the locker room at halftime, marking the USA’s highest scoring output in a half at this year’s competition.
After Mexico shot 7-of-15 (.467) in the first quarter, the USA’s defense held its opponent to just 1-of-11 (.091) in the second period. The USA also outrebounded Mexico 20-3 in the second period after holding a 15-10 advantage on the glass in the first quarter.
The USA outscored Mexico 22-9 in the third period and 25-5 in the fourth to close out its fifth-straight victory.
“It’s really fun when everybody gets to touch the ball and it’s team basketball, not just one person,” added Cunningham. “It’s really fun to be in this environment and it creates a really intense, yet carefree environment to play in.”
“It’s been lot of fun to get here, playing as a team,” concurred Slaughter. “We were just talking about how we’ve been playing against each other so much and how fun it is to play with one another, really share the ball. It’s been a lot of fun.”
At the end of the night, the USA had converted Mexico’s 30 turnovers into 51 points, outscored Mexico 82-14 points in the paint, 35-4 second chance points, 27-4 points on the fast break and 53-3 points off the bench. The U.S. outrebounded Mexico 61-20 and shot a red-hot 58.4% (52-89 FGs) from the field, while forcing Mexico into an icy 26% (13-50 FGs) shooting.
Canada has outscored its opponents by an average of 48.6 points a game and holds a +24.0 average rebounding margin. In contrast, the USA has a +91.2 points per game margin of victory and owns a +36.4 rebounding average over its opponents.
“Canada is going to be a great match-up,” stated Slaughter. “They’ve been playing really well. I trust my coaches very much, I trust the plays we have, I trust the girls we have to run those plays. I trust our offense and defense and I’m excited to get out there and play them. They’re an amazing team and we’re going to have to play well to beat them.”
In classification semifinals, Brazil (2-3) defeated Chile (1-4) 75-44 and Puerto Rico (3-2) downed Costa Rica (0-5) 81-48. On Sunday Brazil and Puerto Rico will square off for fifth place at 12:30 p.m. and Chile and Costa Rica will play for seventh place at 3:30 p.m.
The USA’s assistant coaches are Tom McConnell (Indiana University Pennsylvania) and Sophia Witherspoon (Fort Pierce Central H.S., Fla.).
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. The USA Basketball women claimed the gold medal in 2009, 2011, 2013, 2017 and 2019 and the bronze medal in 2015 currently own an all-time record of 35-1 in FIBA Americas U16 Championship action.