USA Women's U18 National Team Rolls Into Medal Semifinals With 108-44 Defeat Of Puerto Rico
The USA Women's U18 National Team (3-0) hit a record-tying 31 free throws and received double-figure point production from eight players as the Americans rolled past Puerto Rico (0-3), 108-44, on June 25 in the 2010 FIBA Americas U18 Championship for Women at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo.
"Our goal going into the game was not to settle," said USA and University of Hartford head coach Jennifer Rizzotti. "We knew we could get a good shot every possession, but we really wanted to work for a great shot. So, I'm really pleased with the 22 assists, because I wanted them to be unselfish and share the ball."
For the first time all tournament, the USA trailed when Puerto Rico's Kiara Quinones got fouled while successfully hitting a layup to put her team up 3-2 just 1:34 into the contest. A layup by Chiney Ogwumike (Cy-Fair H.S./Cypress, Texas) 19 seconds later, though, put the USA back on top for good as they rallied off 19 consecutive points and held Puerto Rico without a field goal for the next 9:50, extending into to the second period.
"The game plan was to just focus on defense and take away their strengths, and I think we executed it out well," said Malina Howard (Twinsburg H.S./Twinsburg, Ohio), who scored six points and added four rebounds in her first start. "I think we made sure we got the ball into the post and used our height to our advantage and kicked out when we needed to and hit open shots when we needed to."
A night after setting a tournament record with an 88.2 shooting percentage from the free-throw line, the USA went to the line a USA-record 46 times, connecting on 31 shots, which ties a USA U18 record. After shooting 20-of-21 from the charity stripe in the first half, the USA was on pace to rewrite the books again for highest percentage, but six consecutive misses to start the half led to an 11-of-25 performance from the line in the second half.
In the first quarter, the USA led by as many as 27, 32-5, and saw scoring from nine different players. Within the first 15 minutes, all 12 players had scored, and by halftime the Americans held a 59-15 lead.
"We just didn't want our girls to get complacent," Rizzotti said. "We wanted them to give good energy, respect their opponent and just play up to our level and challenge themselves at what we want them to get better at. So other than maybe one or two lulls during the game, I thought we did a good job of keeping our focus and not really thinking about what the score was."
The early lead allowed Rizzotti to rest some of her starters, including Ogwumike, who played less than 14 minutes, third fewest on the team.
"I'm happy with the balance," Rizzotti said. "We knew it would be a good opportunity to make sure everybody got a lot of playing time. To have eight different guys in double figures means we did a good job sharing the ball and finding different ways to score."
In the win, each player on the American squad recorded a rebound and at least two field goals.
Led by Diamond DeShield's (Norcross H.S./Norcross, Ga.) 14 points, seven other U.S. players scored in double figures, including Reshanda Gray (Washington Prep H.S./Los Angeles, Calif.), Cassie Harberts (San Clemente H.S./San Clemente, Calif.), Bria Hartley (North Babylon H.S./North Babylon, N.Y.), Alexis Jones (MacArthur H.S./Irving, Texas), Ally Malott (Madison H.S./Middletown, Ohio), Ogwumike and Cassie Peoples (Cy-Fair H.S./Houston, Texas).
Jones' 12 boards was a team-high, giving the guard a double-double on the night with 10 points and three steals, while Hartley chipped in with five assists.
The USA outrebounded Puerto Rico 71-31 and limited itself to seven turnovers, just two coming in the second half.
With the win, the USA finished the preliminary round as the No. 1 seed in Group B. It will face Chile (2-1), who defeated Mexico (1-2) 65-63 on Friday, in the semifinals on Saturday at 5:45 p.m. (all times MDT).
"It feels amazing," Malott said. "We've been here for so long, and we've been working for this. Now, we're right where we expected to be."
Group A winner Canada (3-0) will play Brazil (2-1) at 3:30 p.m. Canada coasted past Costa Rica (0-3) 74-18 on Friday, while Brazil held off Argentina (1-2), 64-61. In the consolation semifinals, Mexico will play Puerto Rico at 11 a.m. and Costa Rica will face Argentina at 1:15 p.m.
With Chile already qualified for the 2011 FIBA U19 World Championship for Women as the host country, the No. 5 finishing team in the U18 qualifier also will earn a berth into the 2011 U19 Worlds."The three teams left " Brazil, Canada and Chile " we've played all three," Rizzotti said. "So, our players have to understand that even though we've beaten them, this is another level. This is the medal round. We're playing for something now. Our intensity has to be there. I was really happy when we started pool play with Argentina, how excited they were. So we just need to recreate that excitement by saying, 'Hey, we're done with pool play. Now we're in the next round. Let's try to make sure we come out with that same excitement level.' "