USA Men's U17 Headed to Gold-Medal Game at FIBA World Cup
The USA Basketball Men's U17 National Team defeated Lithuania 89-62 on Saturday evening, moving on to the final at the 2022 FIBA U17 World Cup at Palacio de Deportes José María Martín Carpena in Málaga, Spain.
The U.S. can see gold at the end of the tunnel as they face either France or Spain on Sunday night. The team will attempt to earn its sixth-consecutive gold medal for this event.
“It’s extremely humbling,” said head coach Sharman White. “It’s tough because it falls on you to keep it going but the pressure just means you know what you’re doing, us as staff and the kids as players.”
The red, white and blue appeared to be everywhere all at once the entire night. It was hard to know where to look, as the U.S. started off fast, with what White said he considered one of their best starts of the competition, finishing the first quarter 21-7. The offense never let up the pace, scoring 37 fast break points in a myriad of ways.
“We forced the tempo and we did a great job at that. We shared the ball really well and we’ve found a way to get better each game,” White said said.
While Lithuania made a valiant effort with in-game adjustments, they could not get past a ruthless U.S. defense. The USA made extra opportunities for themselves where Lithuania could not, with turnovers leading to 31 U.S. points. The USA ended the night with 29 defensive rebounds, 14 steals and seven blocked shots.
Scoring leader Jeremy Fears Jr. agreed with his coach about the squad’s teamwork.
“Our group has been able to come together and play against these competitive teams,” he said. “That’s what makes the U.S. great. It’s the whole 12.”
Fears came off the bench to finish with 18 points, three rebounds and five assists. He also contributed two steals to the defensive effort.
Other big contributors for the night were Karter Knox who finished with 14 points, two rebounds and two steals. David Castillo and DJ Wagner each ended with 12 points. Ron Holland created multiple opportunities for his teammates with 10 rebounds for the day.
Finally, Dennis Evans has been the darling of the tournament, quietly coming off the bench every game to support his teammates to loud chants from the crowd. His dunk near the end of the fourth quarter drew the biggest cheers of the night, especially from an unlikely spot.
“I couldn’t hold back. I usually don’t show that kind of emotion but it was very well deserved for him,” said White.
There was much to be excited about as the USA closed out the night shooting 47% (35-74 FG) from the field, 50% (11-22) on 3-pointers and 62% (8-13 FT) from the line.
Vytautas Zygas led Lithuania with 17 points and four rebounds as the team shot 32% FG (25-79), 30% 3FG (8-27) and 100% FT (4-4).
Fans can stream the games at www.youtube.com/FIBA.