BUENOS AIRES – United States vs. Canada. This was the women’s basketball game that never happened in 2015, nor 2016.
It was expected to be played two years ago in Pueblo, Mexico at the 2015 FIBA u16 America tournament. The USA didn’t live up to this plan by losing in the quarterfinals to Brazil who faced eventual champion Canada in the finals.
For the two programs that try to mirror each other in some facet or another beyond the boarder there has been no game between these two youth powerhouse programs in over two years.
While the USA finished runner-up at the 2016 u17 Worlds last year, Canada finished 7th beating perennial power France. Brazil and Mexico, the other 2016 Americas qualifiers finished 13th and 14th respectively and will not play in 2018 u17 Worlds either.
The game that never happened will be played tomorrow night as the expected gold medal game of the 2017 FIBA u16 Americas Championship.
The USA advanced to the final with an impressive 98-42 victory against a very physical host Argentina team.
Similar to the game against Mexico where the USA struggled with shooting at the start and the Puerto Rico game where they hit only 3 of 25 3-point shots the Americans missed against Argentina but used defense to open a lead that was never tested halfway through the second quarter.
During the second half rout all players on the USA team scored with an impressive 44 points off turnovers and getting 49 points from their bench.
For a complete box score and more, follow the link below to the FIBA web site.
USA Head Coach Carla Berbue was asked about these stats and the impact the team depth had against Argentina. “Yeah,” said Berube. “Maybe not those numbers but absolutely. This is a team of 12-all-stars. Yeah we have five starters that we really feel good about but the next seven coming in are phenomenal players. They were awesome especially the second half. That energy off the bench was really key, it sealed at lot of great things defensively.”
Canada also used defense to move into this gold medal showdown beating Columbia in the early game 64-38. The Canadians were never challenged and used constant pressure to get to the gold medal game again.
As the defending u16 champion the goal is to win but with Canada there’s also the focus on the big picture, the alignment of each age group and national team in support of building the Senior Women’s National team.
“With Canada basketball we always try to balance the development and long term potential of some of these athletes along with being extremely competitive,” said Canada Head Coach Jodi Grim who helmed the 2015 u16 team and the u17s in 2016. “We have more depth than we’ve ever had. No question, we really do make a concerted effort to align some of our systems and our teams and the experience that we gain here. Those are the experiences we really want to give a lot of these youngsters who are going to make the team (Women’s Senior National Team) one day.”
CANADA TALK: “We haven’t played the US in two years,” explained Canadian Head Coach Grim. “And we always love an opportunity (to play them). It’s a fun rivalry and I believe it makes both of us better.
If there was any aspect of the USA team to be aware of Grim commented: “I would say the depth and talent in the US is just unparalleled. Every year they come with size, they got shooters, they got athleticism and that gives them an opportunity to compete for a title as well.”
“We’re going to do our best to try and match to try and take away their strengths. And really our messaging is to play to our strengths as Canada throughout the tournament. They (USA) always look super competitive and we’re looking to play them as well.
USA TALK: “Excited (to play Canada). We know it’s a really great team,” said USA Head Coach Berube. “They won this gold medal a couple of years ago. We’re gonna fight tooth and nail, minute one through 40 and hopefully use our depth. Just come out play our brand of basketball and defend and make plays for each other.”
ARGENTINA TALK: After two key losses to the USA (98-42) and also to Canada (71-65) the day Argentina Head Coach Laura Cors was elated about her teams performance. We’re very happy to play great competitive game like this with the USA and Canada. We can’t get this level of competition. This will only make us better.”
THE CHOICE: It was left to Argentina Head Coach Cors to put the championship game in perspective after playing both teams and select her winner. “USA,” smiled Cors. “The USA absolutely is powerful, technically better and it has the history.”