Aug. 17, 2012
GURABO, Puerto Rico -
Incoming freshman Alexis Prince (Edgewater / Orlando, Fla.) scored a game-high 19 points to lead the 2012 USA Basketball Women's U18 National Team (3-0) to a 87-36 victory over Colombia (1-2) to close out FIBA Americas U18 Championship preliminary play on Friday afternoon in Gurabo, Puerto Rico. The game, which saw all nine available U.S. players contribute no less than four points apiece, advanced the U.S. to the semifinals as the No. 1 seed out of Group A.
The win also earned the United States a berth to the 2013 FIBA U19 World Championship for Women, hosted by Lithuania from July 18-28, as the top four finishing teams at this event qualify for the 2013 U19 Worlds.
The U.S. will next square off against the second-placed team in Group B on Aug. 18 at 8:15 p.m. (all times EDT) for the right to compete for the gold medal; while Argentina (2-1) advances out of Group A as the No. 2 seed and will meet up with the No. 1 team in Group B. Currently, Brazil (2-0) is in first place, Canada (2-1) is in second and Puerto Rico (1-1), which plays tonight's final game against Brazil is in third from Group B. The medal semifinal winners will compete for the gold medal on Aug. 19 at 8:15 p.m., preceded by the bronze medal game tip-off at 6:00 p.m.
"I haven't seen any selfish play at all," said Katie Meier, USA U18 National Team and University of Miami head coach. "It's been a really, really unselfish team. They're trying to make the right basketball play and we're asking people to pass up shots and go deeper into the possession a little bit with our depleted roster. The result of that has been some pretty beautiful basketball."
In addition to Prince, who shot 8-of-14 from the field, 3-of-6 from 3-point, and had six rebounds, four assists and three steals; Morgan Tuck (Bolingbrook H.S./ Bolingbrook, Ill.) shot 7-of-10 from the field and contributed 17 points and six rebounds; while Michaela Mabrey (Manasquan H.S. / Belmar, N.J.) tied a U.S. U18 3-point field goal percentage after netting 83.3 percent (5-6 3pt FGs) of her long-range attempts for 15 points. She tied the record set by Candice Wiggins in 2004 against Puerto Rico.
"Prince came up big today," said Mabrey. "Prince and (Morgan) Tuck. They came up big doing all sorts of different things on the court. Since we're down three players, three guards, people have to step up and play all different positions and I think we've done that well."
As a team, the United States shot a blistering 62.5 percent (10-16 3pt FGs) from 3-point range, which eclipsed the previous USA U18 single game record for 3-point field goal percentage of 57.1 (4-7 3pt FGs) set against Brazil in 1993.
Colombia, which hit four if its seven 3-pointers in the first quarter, became the first team in three games to own a lead over the United States, struck first with a long ball at 9:06. However, its lead was short lived. Following a Kendall Cooper (St. Anthony H.S. / Carson, Calif.) basket at 8:44, Tuck swished in a pair of free throws at 8:18 to put her side up 4-3 and the U.S. never again trailed. However, Colombia wouldn't go away and after its third 3-pointer of the period, trailed by just one point, 12-11, at 4:17.
"Colombia had two very good players who shot from anywhere," said Mabrey. "So, in the beginning we let them shoot too much. We had to adjust. Once we adjusted, that made them rethink whether they were going to shoot or not. They were a good team. They ran a little bit and gave us a little trouble in the beginning, but once we adjusted, I think we played better."
Just 14 seconds later Prince hit her first three of the game, sparking a 14-0 run in which she contributed seven points. That spurt was capped by a 3-pointer apiece from Lexie Brown (North Gwinnett H.S. / Suwanee, Ga.) and Mabrey, and with 46 seconds to play in the first stanza the U.S. had pulled away 26-11. One final 3-pointer from Colombia cut it to 26-14 before the buzzer.
Breanna Stewart (Cicero-North H.S. / North Syracuse, N.Y.) notched five points in a 7-0 spurt to go up 33-14 early the second quarter, when Colombia called for a time out at 6:05. The USA was outscored 6-2 coming out of the brief break, which saw the gap cut to 15 points, 35-20, with 3:51 to go before halftime. Graves got a fast-break bucket off a steal and pass from Brown and followed that with another bucket at 2:27. Tuck then had her own 4-0 run as the USA outscored Colombia 8-0 in the closing minutes to take a commanding 43-20 lead at halftime.
Colombia worked hard to narrow the divide and at 3:34, after the opponents converted a steal into a bucket that pulled the score to 52-34, Meier was granted a timeout.
"In a perfect world I'd like to not have to call a timeout to make an adjustment," said Meier. "They went on a little run there and cut it to 18 at the start of the second half. We had to call a timeout to make an adjustment. That adjustment led to a 25-0 run. The negative is that we had to call a timeout. The positive is, that was a ridiculously impressive response to that timeout."
Eighteen seconds out of the timeout Moriah Jefferson (Texas Home Educators Sports Association / Glenn Heights, Texas) drove the lane for the first two points of the run that saw six different players score, including Mabrey, who drilled a trio of 3-pointers. The run, which spanned 6:45 and reached into the fourth quarter, slammed the door on any upset hopes that Colombia might still be harboring.
The Colombian scoring drought lasted over nine minutes and by the time they hit their only bucket of the fourth quarter at 4:12 to make it 77-36, the only item left for doubt was the final score. The red, white and blue closed out the contest on a 10-0 run for the 87-36 final.
Laura Ramirez Torres (3-6 3pt FGs) and Maria Tapias Pinilla (4-14 3pt FGs) scored 15 points apiece for Colombia and accounted for all seven of their team's 3-pointers.
The USA, which had eight assists on nine field goals in the first quarter, finished the night with 20 dimes on 33 baskets, including six from Jefferson.
Overall the U.S. team shot 55.0 percent (33-60 FGs) from the field and limited Colombia to 24.1 percent (13-54 FGs) from the floor and 24.1 percent (7-29 3pt FGs) from beyond the arc. The USA dominated in nearly every category, including owning a 49-23 rebounding advantage. The U.S. squad scored 14 points off 19 turnovers, allowing Colombia just four points off 11 U.S. turnovers, and outscored Colombia 38-12 in the paint, 23-7 on second chance points, 14-2 on the fast break and 22-2 off the bench.
The American women, who are now 41-2 all-time at this event, are two wins away from collecting a sixth consecutive and eighth overall gold medal at the U18s.
Complete box score -
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