-- Four-Time Gold Medalist Breanna Stewart Earns MVP Honors --
Gurabo, Puerto Rico â€¢ Aug. 19, 2012
Finding itself in unfamiliar territory, the 2012 USA Basketball
Womenâ€™s U18 National Team (5-0) never panicked and fought back from a
double-digit deficit to claim the 2012 FIBA Americas U18 Championship
gold medal with a 71-47 victory over Brazil (4-1) on Sunday night in
Gurabo, Puerto Rico. The gold medal marks the sixth straight for the
United States at the U18s. Since its inception in 1988, the American
women have now claimed seven gold medals (1988, 2000, 2004, 2006, 2008,
2010, 2012) and two silver medals (1992, 1996) in nine tries, and are
now 43-2 all-time at this event.
Argentina (3-2) edged Canada (2-3) 53-49 in the bronze medal game.Â
A trio of players posted double-doubles, while a total of four scored in double digits, including tournament MVP Breanna Stewart
(Cicero-North H.S. / North Syracuse, N.Y.), who had 13 points and 10
boards and was the tournamentâ€™s second leading scorer (14.0 ppg.) and
third leading rebounder (7.8 rpg). Morgan Tuck
(Bolingbrook H.S./ Bolingbrook, Ill.), who topped the tournament charts
for scoring (17.8 ppg.) closed the night with a team-high 15 points and
grabbed 11 rebounds; while Bashaara Graves (Clarksville H.S. / Clarksville, Tenn.) finished with 10 points and 11 rebounds. Michaela Mabrey (Manasquan H.S. / Belmar, N.J.) rounded out the USAâ€™s top scorers with 14 points.
â€œThose three were workhorses down there,â€ said Katie Meier,
USA U18 National Team and University of Miami head coach. â€œThey just
battled and battled and battled. When I say it was a physical game, it
was an extremely physical game. So every time Bre (Stewart) or B
(Bashaara Graves) or Morgan (Tuck) got a touch, it was well earned. They
really had to even focus on a catch. They were getting swarmed.
Thatâ€™s what opened up Michael Mabrey and she just put us on her back
there for awhile and brought us back into the game.â€
After trailing for just 1:44 combined in its first four games, and
never by more than three points early in a contest, the U.S. found
itself in the position of having to come from behind by double digits.
Brazil came out on fire and the United States, which missed its first
four shots, found itself on the wrong side of a 9-0 score. Stewart
converted on a put-back at 6:15 to put the first points on the board for
her side, but the USA continued struggling to score and by the end of
the first stanza, trailed 16-7.
In falling behind, the team, which shot 50.4 percent from the floor
in its first four games, missed its first four field goals and shot a
very uncharacteristic 14.3 percent (2-14 FGs) in the first period
Thirty-eight seconds into the second period Brazilâ€™s Thamara Silva
De Frietas put her team up by double digits, 18-7. However, the North
Americans did not panic.
â€œI knew that we would bounce back,â€ said Mabrey. â€œCoach was
giving us confidence. She wasnâ€™t freaking out at all. She was just
telling us to calm down. I think we were a little jittery and a little
nervous in the beginning. But once we came together and we decided to
play USA Basketball, when we did that things started to turn around.â€
With shots not falling in the beginning, the U.S. instead turned to
its bread and butter - stingy defense - and with the defensive heat
turned up, the USAâ€™s offense started clicking.
Bashaara Graves knocked down a shot on an inbounds pass from Mabrey
at 9:01, the first two of an eventual string of 19 unanswered points.
Five players scored in the run, which saw Mabrey connect on a 3-pointer
at 5:00 to knot the game at 18-apiece. Following a Brazil 24-second
violation Graves hit one of two attempts from the line at 4:15 to give
the U.S. its first lead of the game, 19-8, and the red, white and blue
never again trailed. The run, which featured three 3-pointers from
Mabrey in a 10-0 sequence, ended with a Tuck put-back at 1:50 and the
USAâ€™s lead stood at 26-18.
â€œMichaela (Mabrey), she hit some clutch threes to help us get into
the momentum,â€ said Stewart. â€œThen, the defense, we really stepped
it up and everything started flowing from there.â€
Brazil finally ended its scoring drought with a 3-pointer from Estela
Gregorio. After a traditional 3-point play from Stewart, Gregorio
struck again from beyond the arc and at halftime the U.S. held a slim
â€œShe definitely talked about running the plays on offense, just
playing our game,â€ said Tuck on the halftime adjustments. â€œStop the
dribble penetration, because that was something that was really hurting
us on the defensive end. Basically, just keeping them out of the
Coming out of the locker room fired up, the North Americans scored
the first six points of the third quarter, but Brazil hit another three
to remain close, 35-27, at 7:12. Countering with another mini-spurt of
seven, including five from Mabrey, at 5:26 the USA finally had some
breathing room, 42-27. After a Brazil bucket at 4:30, the U.S. continued
its onslaught and outscored the South Americans 8-2 to close the third
quarter up 50-31.
The fourth quarter saw a few spurts from Brazil, but the USA punctuated the game with a 10-0 run en route to collecting gold.
Stewart has now captured gold medals at the U17 and U19 FIBA World
Championships and the U16 and U18 FIBA Americas Championships.
â€œI was really surprised I got that, actually,â€ said the
ever-humble Stewart on her MVP award. â€œItâ€™s nice, but Iâ€™d rather
have a gold medal.â€
In the end, the U.S. improved its shooting percentage to 40.6 (21-48
FGs) overall and made 31.3 percent (5-16 3pt FGs) from beyond the arc,
while limiting Brazil, which hit for 41.7 percent (10-24 FGs) in the
first half, to 31.5 percent (17-54 FGs) on the night. Further, the USA
claimed 16 points off of 23 turnovers, but only gave up seven points
from its 19 turnovers. The U.S. outscored Brazil 34-18 in the paint and
20-5 on second chance points and outrebounded Brazil 48-33.
Jannah Tucker (New Town H.S. / Randallstown, Md.)
went down with an injury to her left knee early in the USAâ€™s Aug. 16
game and did not compete for the remainder of the tournament.
In classification games, Mexico (1-4) picked up its first win after
downing Dominican Republic (0-5) 64-33 to finish in seventh place, while
host Puerto Rico (3-2) finished in fifth place with a 56-46 victory
over Colombia Â (2-3).
Meier is assisted by collegiate head coaches Nikki Caldwell of Louisiana State University and Kelly Graves of Gonzaga University.