The USA Women's U18 Team took the gold for the second year in a row Sunday at the FIBA 3x3 U18 World Championships in Jakarta, Indonesia, defeating Estonia 21-12 in the gold-medal match. With the win, the U.S. qualified for a berth in the 2014 Youth Olympic Games to be held in Nanjing, China.
The victorious 2013 USA U18 3x3 team included University of California commit Gabby Green (St. Mary's College High School, Oakland, Calif.), Arike Ogunbowale (Divine Savior Holy Angels High School, Milwaukee, Wis.), Katie Lou Samuelson (Mater Dei High School, Huntington Beach, Calif.), and University of Notre Dame commit Brianna Turner (Manvel High School, Pearland, Tex.).
"I feel like if we wouldn't have won the gold we would have been really disappointed that we spent all this time and wasted everybody's time basically, but I'm really happy that we won and our time wasn't put to waste," said Green.
"It feels great, it's really cool. It took a lot of work," added Ogunbowale about the team's capturing of the gold medal.
When asked about the characteristics of this gold medal team, Ogunbowale responded, "Probably just the drive, motivation, determination, all those three. We wanted to win; we didn't want anything less than a gold medal."
The U.S. women stumbled only once on their march to the world championship, falling to Lithuania, 11-9, on the final day of preliminary-round play on Saturday. But the quartet quickly regrouped, bouncing back the same day to defeat Spain, the defending U18 3x3 silver medalists, 14-11, and finishing the preliminaries second in Group B with a 4-1 record.
"We were really pumped to come out for that game [against Spain] because we had just lost and we were ready to play," said Samuelson. "We knew that once we got halfway through we could do this if we kept playing the same way we were. Our defense was really good and we played overall really well."
The loss made Team USA's road to the gold somewhat more difficult as they entered the knock-out rounds facing the top-ranked teams from Groups C and D, but a 21-14 victory over Thailand in Saturday's round of 16 earned them a berth in Sunday's quarterfinals.
"It was definitely better and we're getting back to how we played in D.C. [at the FIBA Americas Championship]," said Samuelson Saturday after the win over Thailand. "I think we're going to do pretty well tomorrow if we keep playing that way. Tomorrow we have to come out from the very beginning really hard and we need to rebound better and play better defense."
"I love 3x3," Samuelson added. "It's awesome and it's really fun to play. It's really fun to be playing outside, there's music playing; it's a lot more fun to me than five-on-five."
First up on Sunday came until-then undefeated France, whom the Americans nosed past, 17-15, in a tight contest.
"We knew we had to come out hard and if we played the way we did against Spain the day before we knew we could win it. So we just came out and played as hard as we could and we just wanted this and we played really well," said Samuelson about the win over France.
The semifinals brought a fresh matchup against Spain, by then 6-2, and for the second time in the competition, the U.S. women came out on top, this time earning a 15-10 win over the reigning silver medalists.
"It was of course a harder game because we had already beat them so they were coming out for revenge and to get to the gold medal game too. But once again we just really stuck to our game plan and we were able to pull out the win," said Turner, who also won gold at the 2012 FIBA 3x3 U18 World Championship.
Facing 7-1 Estonia in the gold medal game, the USA powered its way to a decisive 21-12 win and the gold medal. In the bronze medal game, Spain defeated Italy (6-3) 14-7 to finish third.
"We started off really well. Estonia played hard but we really kept a face paced game and I think we tired them out and we kept going with our intensity and it really helped," said Samuelson.
The third annual FIBA 3x3 U18 World Championship (billed as the 2011 FIBA 3x3 Youth World Championship in its inaugural year) featured 24 women's teams and 32 men's teams from around the world. Athletes must be 18-years-old or younger (born on or after Jan. 1, 1995) in order to compete.
The U.S. men started off well, but lost, also to Lithuania, in Saturday's round of 16, eliminating them from medal contention. Argentina went on to win the men's gold; France took silver, and Lithuania finished third.
Source: Major portions of this story were provided by USA Basketball press releases.