USA Women's U18 National Team Rides Monster Second Quarter Past Canada For 72-56 Win
Leading by two points after the first quarter, the 2008 USA Basketball Women's U18 National Team outscored Canada 24-5 in the second period to pull away and secure an easy 72-56 win Thursday in the FIBA Americas U18 Championship for Women in Buenos Aires, Argentina. With two wins under its belt, the USA has guaranteed a top-four finish in the tournament and secured a berth into the 2009 FIBA U19 World Championship.
In today's other games, Venezuela (1-1) crushed Puerto Rico (0-2) 89-52, while host Argentina (1-0) meets Brazil (0-1) at 7 p.m. local time (6 p.m. EDT).
'I'm really excited about our defense,' said USA and Northern Illinois University head coach Carol Owens. 'Canada was a very good team, and we were able to contain them. We are an athletic enough team that we can switch positions one through four, and that athleticism gives teams problems.'
The red, white and blue once again displayed its depth with 11 of the 12 team members scoring. Shekinna Stricklen (Morrilton H.S. / Morrilton, Ark.) led the way with 13 points and eight rebounds, and Kelsey Bone (Dulles H.S. / Stafford, Texas) added 12 points and nine boards.
The USA opened the game red hot, and the scoreboard read 9-0 when Canada called its first time out at 7:11. The break in action helped Canada respond with its own 14-2 run, and the score was 14-11 in Canada's favor at 2:29 in the first period.
A basket from Stricklen with just 14 seconds remaining the opening stanza, however, recaptured the lead for the Americans, 19-17, and the USA never again trailed.
'The coaches really got me pumped up and told me to crash the boards,' Stricklen said. 'I felt good out there, but mostly it was that the team was all together today. Everybody was crashing and talking, and we were focused on defense. That's how we fought off their run and got the win early in the game. Then we just needed to hold on.'
Turning up its defensive intensity in the second period, the USA held Canada to just five points in the second period while five U.S. players combined for 24 points. Bone led the way, scoring six of her 12 points in the stanza.
'I'm really happy because this may have been our biggest game, and we were able to come out and get the win,' Bone said. 'I think our biggest focus has to be to continue talking, and for a full 40 minutes. We talk sometimes, and then it dies off and teams are able to make runs. We need to learn to talk through the whole game.'
The Americans were on autopilot for the third quarter, and a buzzer-beating basket from Lynetta Kizer (Potomac H.S. / Woodbridge, Va.), who finished with eight points and four rebounds, gave the USA a 24-point lead after three periods of play, 58-34.
Canada managed 22 points to the USA's 14 in the final quarter, but the effort was in vain as the game's outcome had already been determined.
Ashley Corral (Prairie H.S. / Vancouver, Wash.) added nine points and five assists; Nneka Ogwumike (Cy-Fair H.S. / Cypress, Texas) tallied nine points to go with six rebounds; and Alyssia Brewer (Sapulpa H.S. / Sapulpa, Okla.) grabbed five rebounds.
Canada was led by 14 points from Natalie Achonwa, the only Canadian to score in double figures.
The USA again dominated the interior, scoring 34 points in the paint to Canada's 18 and outrebounding its neighbor-to-the-north 48-33.
'We have really strong post players,' Corral said. 'They are probably the biggest people here, so it's easy to find them, especially because they do a good job of opening up and sealing. It's tough for other teams to stop them.
The 2008 zone qualifier is being played in a round robin format, with the top four finishing teams earning a berth into the 2009 FIBA U19 World Championship. The USA next plays Puerto Rico at 5 p.m. local time (4 p.m. EDT) on July 25; followed by Brazil at 3 p.m. on July 26; and Argentina at 7 p.m. on July 27.
'I'm glad that we qualified, and I'm glad that we were able to do that for USA Basketball,' Owens said. 'But now winning our next three games is our concern. I saw Puerto Rico yesterday, and they are a very scrappy team. They are small, but you can't take that for granted. We need to keep their guards in front of us because they like to run the ball.'