BUENOS AIRES – USA wins! Hang the Gold Medal. Bang the drum, tweet the score and pictures. The USA finally won the big one, a 91-46 gold medal victory over neighboring Canada in the 2017 FIBA U16 Americas finals.
Was it a big deal – absolutely! The USA has not captured gold since 2013 in the U16 FIBA Americas. It wasn’t like this in 2015 in Pueblo, Mexico (U16’s Bronze) nor in 2017 in Zaragoza, Spain (U17’s Silver).
USA Basketball teams are just about winning Gold.
Everyone in youth girl’s basketball over the past three years have been talking, discussing and gossiping about the entire USA Basketball program with its failure to bring home the gold in the last youth cycle. It wasn’t pretty as questions about talent, selections, coaching, administration, chemistry and even the weather were bantered about as issues.
But this is the next cycle, the next selection committee, the next team and the next coaches – all that was left to do was play these games.
This USA U16 squad was loaded from top to bottom with talent and players with special set skills that would give Coach Carla Berbue and her staff the redemption everyone was looking for. It helped that this team was benefited by an amazing array of USA talent with a pool so deep that even those next 10 players who did not make this squad could have won this event too.
USA Head Coach Carla Berube talks about the expectations for this USA Team.
That’s a testament to those players who did make it through the selection process to represent the USA here in Buenos Aires. And, if anyone had a perspective on this, it was USA team captain 6-2 Samatha Brunelle who was on board the U17 team that lost to Australia in the finals last year summer.
“It felt amazing, the girls are all great, we played so well together and the chemistry was just there the whole tournament,” smiled Brunelle. “It was a team effort. There’s not one person on this team that you could give full credit to. It was just an entire team effort.”
As such, Brunelle pointed out directly the strength of this 2017 USA Team, it’s depth and balance. Even though the 2017 FIBA U16 MVP trophy went to post Aliyah Boston, it was obvious that a number of USA players could have laid claim to this honor from one game to the next. As typical of great USA teams there was always someone ready to come in and just be that person on the floor.
Those two factors enable the USA to jump on top of a very good and athletic Canada team that was the defending champion. It was a grind-it-out game for the USA during the first half getting a lead of six points at the end of the first quarter ballooning to 25 at halftime.
USA Head Coach Carla Berube discusses the play of the USA in opening up a large halftime lead.
Canada tried to play aggressive defense and get to the basket but this FIBA game was more physical that any day prior to this. It was apparent during the earlier 3rd place game between Argentina and Columbia that went into overtime before the hosts won, that these last two games could be a physical battle – advantage USA this time.
Brazil beat the USA back in 2015 in the quarterfinals with just physical basketball and an American group that would look for fouls every time going to the basket. This is not USA travel ball, it’s FIBA.
Note taken this time as this USA guard line was bigger, more controlled and skilled. It needed this level of play and balance to compete with a quicker Canada that was hoping to push the Americans off their shooting and keep it close. The physical play canceled that strategy.
USA U16 Head Coach Carla Berube on the amount of physical play vs. Canada in the finals.
The game becoming physical was not lost of Canada Head Coach Jodi Grim who understood they needed to play through this to win.
Canada U16 Head Coach Jodi Grim on how the physical style of play became an advantage for the USA.
The USA placed five players in double figures: Azzi Fudd 18, Zia Cooke 15, Aliyah Boston 15, Paige Bueckers 11 and Diamond Miller 10. The Americans collected an astounding 52 of their 91 points from the bench and got 36 points on 31 Canada turnovers – stats almost similar to the night before vs. Argentina.
USA U16 Head Coach Carla Berube on the prospects for the USA next year at the FIBA U17 World Championships.
Canada U16 Head Coach Jodi Grim on the prospects for Canada at next year’s FIBA U17 World Championships.
USA U16 Team Captain Samatha Brunelle discusses the anticipation for next year and the FIBA U17 World Championships.
FINAL NOTES: The MVP Aliyah Boston was the only selection here as there was no All-Star team selection.
FIBA U17 WORLDS: The 2018 event will take place in Minsk, Belarus from July 21-29. Look for whomever makes the team to not play any summer travel basketball. The USA team that gets selected could be gone from July 4th until the 30th when they would arrive home.
USA ROSTER CHANGES: Normally the USA U16 roster changes between two to three up to four slots between a team cycle. Unlike 2016 when the USA team changed up to six spots, the 2018 edition will be heavily contested as the very deep and available USA talent pool will mean a lot of competition for spots not because of less talent but more.
For a complete championship box score and more, follow the link below to the FIBA web site.