USA Suffers Hard-Fought 75-70 Loss To Puerto Rico
Oct. 22, 2011 • Guadalajara, Mexico
In a game that was decided in the final few minutes, the USA (0-2) suffered a 75-70 setback against Puerto Rico (1-1) in the 2011 Pan American Games women’s basketball competition on Saturday evening at the CODE Dome in Guadalajara, Mexico.
Tied at 61-61 midway through the fourth quarter, the USA was outscored 14-9 over the final five minutes as Puerto Rico sank its final six free throw attempts to seal the USA’s fate.
Breanna Stewart (Cicero-North Syracuse H.S./North Syracuse, N.Y.), the team’s only high school player, finished with 14 points and 11 rebounds, Tavelyn James (Eastern Michigan/Detroit, Mich.) contributed 12 points, Marissa Kastanek (North Carolina State/Lincoln, Neb.) added nine and Shante Evans (Hofstra/West Chester, Pa.) collected 11 rebounds to go with her five points off of 5-of-6 shooting from the free throw line.
“I do think we have improved,” said the USA head coach Ceal Barry. “I felt like our team fought harder in the third quarter, and we didn't dig ourselves into a hole. It was unfortunate. We gave away a few possessions down the stretch, and that really hurt us. The players worked hard, and they did the best that they could. I have no complaints. Their coaches should be proud at how they are representing their respective programs, and they are handling themselves with a lot of class.”
Despite shooting 37.7 percent (23-61 FGs) to Puerto Rico’s 36.8 percent from the field (25-68 FGs) and winning the rebounding battle 44-28, the USA was plagued by 19 turnovers to Puerto Rico’s 11.
“We can do a better job of executing and cutting down on the turnovers,” said Emilie Johnson (UC Santa Barbara/Loomis, Calif.). “Those are the main things. We are playing hard. I think we need to trust each other more. With only playing together a week, it comes down to trusting each other. We are right there.”
The USA started with a 5-0 lead thanks to points from three different players before Puerto Rico put its first points on the board a 7:20, and the score was 10-5 in the USA’s favor when Puerto Rico sank a free throw at 5:21. The USA’s largest run of the game followed as Stewart, James and Kastanek combined for nine unanswered points to stretch the American advantage to 19-5 at 3:12. Five of Puerto Rico’s next nine points came from the free throw line as the USA scored six more points of its own, and the scoreboard read 25-14 in the USA’s favor at the first intermission.
Puerto Rico’s Jazmine Sepulveda scored nine of her game-high 21 points in the first three minutes of the second period to help shift the momentum in Puerto Rico’s direction, and while Puerto Rico compiled 19 points in the quarter, the USA was held to just eight and was scoreless over the last 4:44 of the period. As the teams headed to the halftime locker room, the score was tied at 33-33.
“Any time you lose it's difficult,” said April Sykes (Rutgers/Starkville, Miss.). “We need to learn to stay within our game, which is pushing the ball and getting back on defense. They got like four scores in a row in the second quarter on fast break points, and that kind of got their momentum up.”
Katelan Redmon (Gonzaga/Spokane, Wash.), who finished with eight rebounds, four points and three assists, scored off of an inbounds play to start the second half, but Puerto Rico had an answer for every U.S. score, and at 6:40 the game once again was tied, 39-39. The USA widened the gap to 47-41 at 4:07 after an 8-0 run that include two 3-pointers from Kastanek, but Puerto Rico responded with its own 6-0 run to once again tie the game at 2:09, this time at 47-47. After three more U.S points, Puerto Rico scored with two seconds on the clock, and the U.S. led 51-49 headed into the fourth quarter.
Puerto Rico’s Mari Noeli Placido, who finished with 16 points, opened the fourth period with consecutive scores to give her side a 56-51 lead at 8:30, but the USA took a 58-56 lead with a 3-pointer from James at 7:09. A long ball from Puerto Rico was answered by a three-point play from Valencia McFarland (Mississippi/Edwards, Miss.), and the score was tied for a seventh time in the game, 61-61, at 5:43.
Sykes sank her free throw after being fouled on a made basket before Carla Cortijo, who also finished with 16 points, scored twice to put Puerto Rico up 65-64 at 3:46.
The teams traded baskets over the next four possessions, and the score was 69-68 in Puerto Rico’s favor at 2:28. The USA twice turned the ball over before fouling Sepulveda on a drive, and she sank her two attempts from the charity stripe at 1:37 to give Puerto Rico a 71-68 lead. Both teams missed shots on their next opportunity before the USA was whistled for an offensive foul with 45 seconds remaining.
The following possession, Cortijo was fouled on a drive at 27.2 seconds and Puerto Rico went up 73-68 with two made free throws. James scored for the USA with a layin at 20.0 seconds to cut it to a one possession game, 73-70, but Cortijo again was fouled on the drive and made two free throws at 12.0 seconds to bring the game to its final outcome of 75-70.
The USA missed its final shot attempt at 3.3 seconds and then fouled Cortijo one more time on the rebound. Cortijo missed both free throws, but time ran out on the game as Kevi Luper (Oral Roberts/Adair, Okla.) heaved a three-quarters court shot as the buzzer sounded.
“I think we could have played better and finished the game,” McFarland said. “Hopefully against Mexico, we'll have a better outcome.”
The USA will close out preliminary round group play against host Mexico (2-0) at 8 p.m. (times listed are Central Daylight Time, which is -1 hour from Eastern Daylight Time) on Oct. 23.
In today’s other Group A contest, Mexico edged Argentina (1-1) 58-57; while in Group B Brazil (2-0) cruised past Jamaica (0-2) 116-34 and Colombia (2-0) survived against Canada (0-2) 59-57.
The top two finishing teams from each preliminary round group advance to the medal semifinals, while the third and fourth place teams will play out for 5th-8th place. The semifinals will be played on Oct. 24, and the finals will take place on Oct. 25.
Jennifer Gillom and Debbie Ryan are assisting on the USA sideline.