USA Women Open 2011 FIBA Americas U16 Championship With 71-54 Win Over Brazil
Merida, Mexico • June 13, 2011
Mercedes Russell (Springfield H.S./Springfield, Ore.) tallied 21 points and USA U16 single-game records of 15 rebounds and five blocked shots to help lead the 2011 USA Women’s U16 National Team (1-0) to a 71-54 win over Brazil (0-1) and its first victory in the 2011 FIBA Americas U16 Championship on June 13 in Mérida, Mexico.
In addition to her single-game records for rebounds and blocked shots, Russell set USA U16 highs for free throws made and attempted with a 7-of-9 performance from the line. As a team, the USA set a new single-game mark for rebounds with 58 boards and tied the high for blocked shots with 11.
“My teammates were giving me good passes, and then when they were open, they were shooting,” Russell said. “All-around, we all played well.”
After trailing by three points at halftime, 34-31, the USA outscored Brazil 21-8 in the third period to take a 10-point lead and control of the game.
“I felt like we were gambling too much defensively in the first half and just very careless defensively,” said USA head coach Jill Rankin Schneider (Monterey H.S., Lubbock, Texas). “Brazil was very quick, and in the second half we contained them better and we controlled the boards. Of course, they cooled off a little bit. They were hitting some tough shots in the first half. I'm proud of our young ladies. They were able to step it up defensively and get on the glass the way we needed them to, and they played very well in the second half.”
Eleven of 12 players scored for the USA, including Rebecca Greenwell (Owensboro Catholic H.S./ Owensboro, Ky.) with eight points and six rebounds, Stephanie Mavunga (Brownsburg H.S./Indianapolis, Ind.) with eight points, Kaela Davis (Buford H.S./Suwanee, Ga.) with six points and six rebounds and Linnae Harper (Whitney M. Young H.S./Chicago, Ill.) with six points, four assists and three steals.
“I thought Brazil came out really aggressive, and that's how they got a three-point lead on us at halftime,” Greenwell said. “But, we picked up our intensity and came out strong, and we pulled away in the end. We had a few leaders step up and get everybody's heads together. We came together at halftime, and you could really tell.”
The USA opened the game with a 6-0 run that featured three different scorers, while Brazil recorded its first points with a 3-pointer at 6:45. The teams traded baskets over the next few minutes, and the score reached 12-11 in the USA’s favor when Jordin Canada (Windward School/Los Angeles, Calif.) stole the ball and went the other way for a fast break layup. Davis then took the next two Brazil misses the length of the court for two pull-up jump shots, giving the Americans a 16-11 lead at the first intermission.
In the second period, Mavunga converted on an old-fashioned three-point play at 9:51 and then an bucket inside at 8:18, but Brazil answered right back and cut the lead to three points, 23-20, with a 3-pointer at 6:23. Three U.S. points prompted a Brazil timeout at 4:26 with the lead now at six, 26-20, but the break served to cool the USA while Brazil heated up. Izabella Frederico Sangalli scored all of her seven, second-quarter points in the remaining minutes to help the South Americans close the period on a 14-5 run and take a 34-31 lead at the midway point.
“There was a lot of talk in the locker room at halftime, and we all knew we could do this,” Mavunga said. “No one was worried. We just said, 'we got this,' and we really worked hard.”
Four points from Greenwell helped the USA open the second half with an 8-0 run that not only gave the USA a 39-34 lead but also the game’s momentum. As six U.S. scorers combined for 21 points in the stanza, the red, white and blue held Brazil to just four field goals and eight points in the third period, taking a 10-point lead into the fourth quarter, 52-42.
Despite a determined effort by Brazil, the USA did not allow its opponent any closer than eight points for the remainder of the game, and in fact took its largest lead, 69-50, following a basket by Harper at 1:21. The USA outscored Brazil 19-12 in the fourth quarter to bring the game to its 71-54 final.
With eight lead changes and three tied scores, the USA turned the ball over 26 times compared to Brazil’s 23. The size and depth advantage for the Americans was apparent in its 48 points in the paint, 24 second chance points and 27 points off of the bench.
“A lot of times the game is focused on the guards, but we have big post players, so our goal is to get the ball inside,” Harper said. “That is where our biggest advantage is, so we got the ball to the posts and they got easy buckets.”
Brazil was led by 14 points from Sangalli.
In today’s other games, Group B saw Venezuela (1-0) edge out Argentina (0-1) 38-37; while in Group A, Canada (1-0) cruised past Guatemala (0-1) 112-17 and Mexico (0-0) faces Puerto Rico (0-0) in tonight’s late game.
Serving as assistant coaches for the USA are Gail Hook, head mentor at Monarch High School in Louisville, Colo., and Letitia Hughley, head coach at both Mott Community College and Flint Northern High School in Flint, Mich.
The U.S. continues pool play against Argentina at 6:00 p.m. (all times listed are local, Mérida is -1 hour from EDT) on June 14 and against Venezuela at 2:00 p.m. on June 15.
The top two finishing teams from each preliminary round group will advance to the medial semifinals, while the third and fourth place teams in each group will play for 5th through 8th place. The semifinals will be played on June 17, and the finals will be played on June 18. The top three finishing teams at the 2011 FIBA Americas U16 Championship will earn a berth into the 2012 FIBA U17 World Championship (site and date TBD).