USA U18 Women Secure Gold Medal Finish With Easy 96-51 Win Over Brazil
With the 2008 zone qualifier being played in a round-robin format, the win clinched a gold medal finish for the Americans, as only Canada (3-1), whom the USA has already beaten, could match the red, white and blue's four wins in the tournaments final games tomorrow.
Also this evening, Canada topped Puerto Rico (0-4) 78-65, and Venezuela (1-2) will meet host Argentina (1-2) at 7 p.m. (6 p.m. EDT).
'I think we had the knockout punch in the first quarter,' Owens said. 'We put them back on their heels, and then they never recovered. We knew that they didn't necessarily shoot well from the outside, but we were concerned about their dribble penetration and their transition offense, so we sent two guards back every time to contain them. That cut their scoring in half.'
Four different U.S. players sank four 3-pointers in the first quarter to help the USA race to a 35-10 lead in the first 10 minutes. The USA entered the game having made just nine 3-pointers in its previous three games.
'I think Brazil was really trying to focus on our bigs, and so our guards were able to get open looks and knock them down early,' said Skylar Diggins (Washington H.S. / South Bend, Ind.), who finished with 13 points, six rebounds and three assists. 'We knew how big this game was in our run to the gold medal. We just tried to bring the intensity early and put the game out of reach. We got out to some fast break points and crashed the boards early, and that helped set the tone.'
Nneka Ogwumike (Cy-Fair H.S. / Cypress, Texas), who also added eight rebounds, tallied 10 of her 13 points in the second quarter as the U.S. lead stretched to 56-22 at halftime.
'We took care of the job, and it felt great out on the floor,' Ogwumike said. 'Everyone was together, and everyone was playing hard. I would have to say it was our best game because we had less turnovers and more offensive boards, and we didn't ever let up.'
Indeed the USA maintained its intensity, outscoring Brazil 19-14 in the third period and 21-15 in the fourth to bring the final score to 96-15. Outrebounding the South Americans 58-23, the USA also tallied 29 offensive boards and 19 second chance points.
Sarah Boothe (Warren Township H.S. / Gurnee, Ill.) added 12 points; Shekinna Stricklen (Morrilton H.S. / Morrilton, Ark.) tallied 11 points and seven rebounds; Nikki Speed (Marlborough H.S. / Pasadena, Calif.) and Joslyn Tinkle (Big Sky H.S. / Missoula, Mont.) each contributed nine points; and Kelsey Bone (Dulles H.S. / Stafford, Texas)and Ashley Corral (Prairie H.S. / Vancouver, Wash.) both scored eight points.
The top four finishing teams in the U18 Americas championship earn a berth into the 2009 FIBA U19 World Championship, scheduled for Bangkok, Thailand. The USA concludes its action against host Argentina at 6 p.m. (5 p.m. EDT) on July 27.
'This feels good, but we aren't done,' Stricklen said. 'Tomorrow is our last game, and we are playing the home team. We won't have any trouble getting fired up because there will be a big crowd and their fans are really loud. We just need come back focused, and have fun. We want to go out with a big bang.'