U.S. Beats Canada To Win Bronze Medal at AmeriCup
Gary Clark and Zylan Cheatham turned the final moments of their first AmeriCup tournament into something memorable on Sunday.
Cheatham leaped above the rim to take an alley-oop pass from Craig Sword and deliver a layup that put the U.S. up on Canada for good with less than three minutes remaining.
Both Cheatham and Clark scored on powerful slams in the final quarter to help the U.S. finish out an 84-80 win and capture a bronze medal in the 2022 FIBA AmeriCup at Geraldão Arena in Recife, Brazil.
“I’m happy for our guys,” U.S. head coach Alex Jensen said. “It was an honor to be a part of it.”
After losing to Mexico in the first game of the tournament, the U.S. won four of its final five games to win its ninth AmeriCup medal, joining a long list of U.S. teams that have won medals in international competitions.
“You’re part of a fraternity,” Jensen said. “There’s pressure to it, but you’re carrying it for the moment. You want to take care of what those before you had done and pass it on in good shape to those that come after. And I think our guys did a great job of that.”
Clark went for a game-high 18 points. Cheatham scored 16. Each player had six rebounds.
U.S. players celebrated their medal win with a huddle on the court after the game. Many of them were playing on a USA Basketball team for the first time, including Cheatham, who played for the New Orleans Pelicans in 2019-20.
“It’s definitely been an experience for our guys,” said Clark, a 6-foot-6 forward who has played for five NBA teams.
“It’s special,” Jensen said. “This is probably one of the few rare true forms of basketball left, tournaments like these and playing for your country.”
Stephen Zimmerman, a 6-foot-11 center who was a rebounding machine for the U.S. in all six games, had a game-high eight rebounds to lead the U.S. rebounding effort of 40.
Norris Cole, who entered the game as the leading 3-point shooter in the tournament, scored four points but did not hit any treys.
Abu Kigab scored 18 points for Canada, which was attempting to win a bronze medal for the second time in three AmeriCup tournaments.
The U.S. missed its first 12 3-point shots as it fell behind by seven points, 36-29, at halftime. Clark ended the drought 35 seconds into the second half, when he hit a trey that pulled the U.S. to within four and seemed to warm up the Americans’ shooting game.
Back-to-back 3-pointers by Clark and Frank Mason tied the game at 44-44 with 4:34 left in the third quarter.
After trailing by seven points at halftime the U.S. went on a 12-point run in the third quarter. Patrick McCaw finished out the run by grabbing an offensive rebound on his own missed 3-pointer and putting it in for a basket, giving the U.S. a 48-44 lead.
Paul D. Bowker is a freelance contributor to USAB.com.