Team USA steamrolled its way to the FIBA Americas U16 Championship title with a 103-52 win over Canada in Mexico City on Friday night. It was the Americans' fourth 100-plus point game out of the five games played in the tournament. Undefeated through the tournament, the U.S. won its five games by an average of 70 points and listed No. 1 in 13 of 19 statistical categories.
"Its great. Its crazy," said Team USA's Cierra Burdick of Butler High School, Mathews, North Carolina, describing her emotions after winning the gold medal in the first FIBA U16 Championship to be held. "The feeling is like no other. Weve accomplished something that nobody else has accomplished. We are the first 16-and-under USA team to get a gold. To be the first, like coach was saying earlier, How many of you have been the first to do something? Weve been the first and its a great feeling."
"I feel really proud," added Mater Dei High School's Jordan Adams (Irvine, California). "I was teary-eyed and had goose bumps. It's just great to hear your national anthem being played after you win."
As expected, Canada gave the Americans their toughest opposition of the competition, sticking close throughout the first period. Canada held an 8-7 lead at the 7:08 mark, before the USA's Adams grabbed an offensive board and launched a 13-0 U.S. run that gave the USA a 20-8 advantage shortly past the midway point of the opening quarter. Canada rallied, however, cutting the lead to 27-20 by the end of the first period. But the Americans outscored their northern neighbors 29-9 in the second period, while forcing eight turnovers, and headed to the locker room with a 56-29 half-time lead. Though the Canadians never gave up, neither were they able to recover.
The U.S. allowed Canada just six more points on 1-of-17 shooting in the third period. Meanwhile, the Americans took off on a 13-0 run, extending the lead to 50 points, 85-35, by the end of three, a margin it extended to 53 points in the fourth quarter before Canada narrowed the gap to the final 49-point margin in the closing seconds.
U.S. forward/center Elizabeth Williams of Princess Anne High School, Virginia Beach, Virginia, was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player after leading her team to victory with a game-high 19 points and seven boards. Williams averaged 13.4 points and 5.2 rebounds per game over the course of the tournament, second on the U.S. team only to Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis of Mater Dei High School, Anaheim, California, who averaged 14 points and 4.6 rebounds per game.
"It's really nice to be named MVP, but obviously my teammates really helped me out because they are the ones who got me the ball," said Williams afterward. "I feel really proud, and it's even better that we won the gold medal."
Photo Caption: U.S. forward/center Elizabeth Williams credited her teammates for feeding her the ball after her game-high, 19-point performance won her MVP honors for the tournament.
"We expected it be difficult, not as easy as our other games," Williams added. "We knew if we picked it up, we could stretch our lead out. Defense is always what gets us over a hump, and that was true tonight."
The U.S. and Canada will be joined in next year's inaugural FIBA Women's U17 World Championships by Argentina who took the bronze medal with a 64-47 win over Brazil earlier in the day.
The USA tallied 80 points in the paint, scored 52 bench points compared to Canada's 26 and out-rebounded Canada 45-25.
"We felt like we could dominate Canada inside, and Elizabeth Williams and Breanna Stewart really did that right off the bat," said U.S. head coach Barbara Nelson (head coach, Wingate University). "We had a little lull defensively and let them stay in the game, and our guard play in the first quarter was not what it had been all week. But, obviously, we got over the hump and finished it up. I think that stats said we had 80 points in the paint. I'm not sure how you can score 80 points in the paint and lose a game."
|Photo Caption: The dominant performance of Elizabeth Williams led five U.S. players who finished in double figures.|
Five Americans finished the game in double figures. In addition to Williams, Mosqueda-Lewis, who added 12 points to the scoreboard, and Adams, who chalked up 10 points and five assists, Justine Hartman (Brea Olinda High School / Brea, California) contributed 14 points and Betnijah Laney (Smyrna High School / Clayton, Delaware) chipped in 13.
Point guard Ariel Massengale of Bolingbrook High School, Illinois, dished out a game-high six assists, while Butler High's Burdick yanked down a team-high seven rebounds, plus dishing out five assists and grabbing five steals.
Canada's top scorer, 5-7 guard Nirra Fields of Lower Canada College, Lachine, Quebec, was the sole Cadette to end the game in double digits with 12 points, but four turnovers, in 25 minutes of play. Fields finished second overall in the tournament in scoring, with an average of 14.2 points per game, behind Guatemala's Rosales Quan, who topped the leaderboard with 14.4 points per game. (Quan also finished second in the tournament in rebounding with an average of 10.2 boards per game.)
Six-three Canadian center Shalie Dheensaw of Claremont Secondary School, Victoria, British Columbia, yanked down a game-high nine boards; she also swatted down three blocks, again a game high, but was held to just four points and coughed the ball up five times. Dheensaw was the tournament's third-best rebounder, averaging 9.6 rebounds per game, behind Quan and Mexico's Maria Faz Davalos, who finished with a tournament-best 10.8 boards per game.
"Canada definitely was the tallest team we have played so far," Mosqeuda-Lewis said. "They did give us a little bit of a problem in the beginning, but our bigs overcame it and they did great. I think our whole team just came together once again. Tonight was a ton of fun."
"It's been pretty amazing," said Coach Nelson of her team's performance throughout the tournament. "When we got them in June, we felt like we had some really good pieces, but we weren't sure we could glue it together. Every kid was used to being the best player on their team, and they had to decide they were going to forfeit that and just be a great team player. Every single kid bought into that, and that has made all the difference in the world in us being a great team."
|Photo Caption: Cicero-North Syracuse High forward/center Breanna Stewart (North Syracuse, New York) shares a celebratory moment with point guard Ariel Massengale (Bolingbrook High School/Bolingbrook, Illinois).|
"We all really worked together," agreed Hartman. "We had never played together before, and then all of the sudden we were on a team together, and we had to learn to play together and learn each other's habits on the court. I just think we bonded well, and we learned the value of teamwork."
"I'm excited for the kids because they were expected to win this tournament, and that kind of expectation comes with some pressure," Nelson said. "For them to be able to finish that and leave no doubt was a great thing."
Among the other participants in the tournament, Mexico (3-2) finished fifth with a 72-56 win over sixth-place Puerto Rico (2-3), while the Dominican Republic (1-4) to finish seventh after defeating last-place Guatemala (0-5), 65-57.
|Photo Caption: Players and coaches from the United States (gold), Canada (silver) and Argentina (bronze) share a moment together after the 2009 FIBA Women's U16 Championships medal ceremonies. Teams from the three countries will meet again next year at the inaugural FIBA Women's U17 World Championships.|