Prahalis is the second Buckeye to win a gold medal this summer after Jantel Lavender won gold at the World University Games in Serbia
BANGKOK, Thailand — Nnemkadi Ogwumike (Stanford / Cypress, Texas) posted game-highs of 22 points and 20 rebounds to lead the 2009 USA U19 World Championship Team (8-1) to an 87-71 gold medal victory over Spain (8-1) on Sunday night in Bangkok, Thailand. For her play throughout the tournament, Ogwumike, who ranked seventh overall in scoring (13.6 ppg.) and third for rebounding (9.9 rpg.) among the 16-team field, was named to the 2009 FIBA U19 World Championship All-Tournament Team.
The U.S. now owns a record four gold medals and one bronze at the FIBA U19 Worlds and has posted a 49-11 all-time record in U19 World Championship play.
Argentina (6-3) claimed its first medal at this event with a 58-51 victory over Canada (4-5) in the bronze medal game.
In addition to the Stanford forward’s play, the U.S. was aided in the victory by 21 points from Samantha Prahalis (Ohio State / Commack, N.Y.); Kelsey Bone (Dulles H.S. /Stafford, Texas) scored 18 points; Shenise Johnson (Miami, Fla. / Henrietta, N.Y.) also notched a double-double with 11 points and 10 boards; while Skylar Diggins (Washington H.S. / South Bend, Ind.) celebrated her 19th birthday by scoring 10 points and collecting seven rebounds.
“We started out better than any team I’ve seen play,” said Carol Owens, USA and Northern Illinois University head coach. “We were ready; we were focused. Our intensity was very good. We knew at some point Spain was going to make their runs at us, but I think we held our composure. This was a gold medal team, and we earned every bit of it. We started out slow, but we got better and they believed in the vision that we had for them.
“Nneka was awesome, as usual. I’m always probably harder on Nneka because I know she can do so much. She takes it in stride, she gets better. She knew rebounding was important. She got a lot of offensive rebounds. With her and Kelsey inside, when they’re ready to go there’s no one who can guard them. No one.”
The U.S. exacted a bit of revenge against its opponent. After opening the tournament with a heartbreaking loss to Spain, the United States proved it was not about to lose again, especially with a gold medal on the line.
Similar to the USA’s semifinal contest against Canada, Spain hit a three to open the game at 9:45. Behind six points from Bone, however, the United States reeled off 14 unanswered points for the game’s largest scoring run. From there the teams swapped baskets, and with 3:28 to go in the first quarter Spain hit a pair of free throws, closing the gap to 24-16. The USA’s defense forced three turnovers, however, while its offense scored nine straight, including a Prahalis floater in the lane that dropped as the buzzer sounded. The USA’s lead was 33-16 at the end of the first stanza.
The American lead never again dropped below double digits. The score stood at 41-26 with 4:41 to play when five different players scored in an 8-2 run that ended with LaSondra Barrett (Louisiana State / Jackson, Miss.) hitting one of two from the line with under a minute before halftime. Spain got two more from the line before the buzzer sounded, and as the teams headed into the locker rooms for the break, the United States held a 19-point, 49-30 advantage.
By halftime Prahalis already had 14 points, Bone had 10 and Ogwumike and Johnson were well on her way to their double-doubles. Ogwumike had nine points and seven boards, and Johnson posted nine points and six boards in the first half.
“It was just coming out with intensity, doing what I had to do,” said Ogwumike. “I just came out with all the effort that I had.”
In the second half Spain never was able to make a run and put together at most five points in a row as the U.S. held on tight to its lead for the gold medal victory. By the end of the third quarter, which Spain won 24-18 to pull as close as 13 points, 67-54, Ogwumike had her double-double with 16 points and 13 boards. The U.S. outscored Spain 20-17 in the fourth quarter and sailed in for the gold medal celebration.
“We weren’t scared (that Spain would come back in the second half), but knew that they would want to,” said Ogwumike. “We knew that they were capable. We said it’s zero to zero, anything can happen and we played as hard as we could to keep it from getting close.”
“It’s great, especially to end it to Spain who we lost to in the first round,” said Prahalis. “Just to overcome adversity and win, it is great.”
Spain’s leading scorer was Leonor Rodriguez with 21 points.
The United States shot 44.2 percent (34-77 FGs) from the field and outrebounded Spain 46-33.
This marks Spain’s first medal of any kind as its 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, Australia (8-1) defeated Russia (5-4) 78-38 for fifth place, and France (4-5) took seventh place after downing Lithuania (3-6) 65-56.
The 2009 FIBA U19 World Championship featured 16 national teams comprised of athletes 19-years-old or younger (born on or after Jan. 1, 1990) that qualified through their FIBA zone tournaments.