BANGKOK, Thailand — Putting on a defensive show that produced 24 turnovers on 19 steals, the 2009 USA U19 World Championship Team (7-1) advanced to the USA’s third consecutive U19 gold medal game after dismantling Canada (4-4) 82-51 in medal semifinal play on Saturday evening in Bangkok, Thailand. The United States will meet up with undefeated Spain (8-0), which handed the U.S. its lone defeat in the tournament opener, in Sunday evening’s gold medal game (7:00 a.m. EDT).
Spain beat Argentina (5-3) 67-49 in Saturday’s second semifinal game. Argentina and Canada will square off for the bronze medal.
The USA’s offensive effort was paced by Kelsey Bone’s (Dulles H.S. /Stafford, Texas) 16 points on 8-of-11 shooting from the field. Nnemkadi Ogwumike (Stanford / Cypress, Texas) added 12 points and Skylar Diggins (Washington H.S. / South Bend, Ind.) and Samantha Prahalis (Ohio State / Dix Hills, N.Y.) each chipped in 11 points as 10 U.S. team members scored.
“It feels very good, very good (to be playing for the gold medal),” said Carol Owens, USA and Northern Illinois University head coach. “I told the team we’ve got one more game. They’re excited and I think they have to be looking forward to this opportunity.”
To say the U.S. dominated the first half would be a vast understatement.
Canada’s Nicole Larke hit a 3-pointer at 9:27 for the game’s first points. However, Canada’s lead was short-lived as the USA kept its neighbors to the north from hitting another field goal for more than 13 minutes.
Ogwumike got a put-back at 9:03 and after Canada missed three attempts, Bone put up her first points to give her side a lead it would never relinquish at 8:23, 4-3. Forcing nine Canadian turnovers in the first period and holding their opponents to a frigid 1-of-12 shooting from the field in the opening stanza, the U.S. strung together a 27-0 scoring spree in just over six minutes and at 2:50 the U.S. was up 27-3. After sending Canada to the line for four tries, the first buzzer sounded with the scoreboard showing a lopsided 27-6 tally.
“We’re down the stretch, we’re close now,” said Bone, who scored eight points on 4-of-5 shooting in the first quarter. “We have one more game and we know what we have to do. For me, it’s about being so close to the gold medal I can taste it. I just wanted to get in there and give it everything I have and do whatever the team needs.”
The second quarter was more of the same as the USA reeled off 12 unanswered points before Canada netted its second field goal of the game at 6:08.
Between its game-opening three and its eighth point of the contest, Canada hit just three free throws in a span of 13:19 and trailed the two-time defending U19 world champion by an insurmountable 31 points, 39-8.
“We’re glad to be here,” said Diggins. “We really came out intense today trying to take care of business early. We set the tone early tonight. Everybody came out with so much energy. You could tell we were having so much fun out there. That’s also a big reason why we’re here. We came here to have a good time and to take care of business at the same time. You could definitely see that in the opening half.”
By halftime the lead was 50-18 and Canada never seriously threatened as the U.S. cruised through the second half for the semifinal win.
“I think we only had three turnovers in the first half and then there was a point in the third quarter where we kind of got on a little spurt where we turned the ball over too much,” commented Owens. “We called a time out to talk about that. So I want to take care of the ball better. Sometimes you look at the score and you get out of hand. We have to be mature enough to really work on things that we need to work on, even if you’re up by a sizeable amount.”
Destiny Williams (Benton Harbor H.S. / Benton Harbor, Mich.) checked in for a team-best seven rebounds and had four points, and Shenise Johnson (Miami, Fla. / Henrietta, N.Y.) produced a team-high four steals to go with six boards and four points.
“I think everybody’s excited and ready to play this gold medal game” said LaSondra Barrett (Louisiana State / Jackson, Miss.), who scored eight points and grabbed five rebounds for the USA. “I think everybody came with focus, with the intentions of beating Canada and moving on to the gold medal game.”
Canada’s Kayla Alexander posted team-highs for her squad with 12 points and a game-best nine rebounds.
The U.S. finished the contest with a 39-34 rebounding edge and shot 44.9 percent (25-78 FGs) from the field, while holding Canada to 31.6 percent (18-57 FGs) field goal shooting. However, Canada hit better from 3-point than overall, making 35.3 percent (6-17 3pt FGs) of its 3-point tries.
Of the four teams remaining in the medal hunt, only the United States has climbed the podium at this event. Owning a record three gold medals and one bronze at the FIBA U19 Worlds, the USA has posted a 48-11 all-time record in U19 World Championship play. Spain’s best finish was fourth place in 2007, while Argentina’s top finish was ninth in 1997 and Canada’s best placing at the U19 Worlds was eighth place in 1985.
In classification play, China (2-6) downed Japan (2-6) 76-59 for 11th place, Brazil (4-4) finished in ninth place after taking a close 75-50 win over the Czech Republic (4-4) in overtime. Australia (7-1) defeated France (3-5) 71-53 and Russia (5-3) edged past Lithuania (3-5) 65-62. Australia will face Russia in the fifth place game on Sunday and France will meet up against Lithuania in Sunday’s seventh place game.
Release courtesty of USA Basketball