COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – With a commanding 104-74 win over Canada (3-2) that saw the USA (5-0) paced by 25 points and 11 rebounds from tournament MVP A’ja Wilson (South Carolina), the 2014 USA Basketball Women’s U18 National Team (5-0) captured the 2014 FIBA Americas U18 Championship gold medal on Sunday evening at the U.S. Olympic Training Center.
The gold medal was the USA U18 women’s seventh-straight and eighth overall, and the USA women are now 48-2 in FIBA Americas U18 Championship play since the event was first held in 1988. The victory also was the USA’s second win over Canada after handing the Canadians a 107-76 loss on Aug. 8 in the preliminary round.
In the bronze medal game, Argentina (3-2) edged out Brazil (2-3) 69-67. All top four tournament finishers, (USA, Canada, Argentina and Brazil) have qualified for the 2015 FIBA U19 World Championship in Russia.
“I thought Canada played extremely well,” said USA head coach Dawn Staley (University of South Carolina). “I just thought over a 40-minute period, we kept fresh legs in there and made them play a little bit quicker than they wanted to play. I thought our players just really, on both sides of the ball, executed the game plan.”
Four additional Americans reached double-digits in a game that saw the USA take control in the first quarter.
Wilson attempted 11 free throws, which tied the USA U18 single-game record – a mark that was previously set by Brianna Turner (Notre Dame) on Aug. 8.
UCLA's Recee' Caldwell started at point and registered two points, two assists and two rebounds in 14 minutes of action in the rout of Canada. This was her second gold medal after leading the U16 team to the title in Merida, Mexico as a 14-year-old.
“It's such an amazing feeling to win a second gold medal,” said Caldwell. “I'm blessed to have had this opportunity with USA Basketball.”
Canada scored first in the game, and the teams traded baskets through the first five minutes. The scoreboard read 10-8 in the USA’s favor when Canada made a 3-pointer at 5:24. But then the red, white and blue launched its first run of the game, ignited by two made free throws from Mariya Moore (Louisville). That was the start of a 12-0 stretch that put the USA up 22-8 when Moore dished to Turner at 1:30. Each team scored four more points before the first quarter ended to make it 26-12.
Once again Canada started the stanza by matching nearly each U.S. score through the first few minutes, and thanks in part to two made 3-pointers, Canada trailed 34-23 at 6:07. The USA outscored Canada 16-9 to close the first half with a 50-32 lead.
The USA’s highest-scoring period of the game was the third, when the Americans put up 29 points to Canada’s 15 and effectively put the game out of reach. The USA’s largest run of the game, a 14-0 spurt, came in the quarter, as well, beginning at 6:54 and ending at 3:28 to make it 71-40. After eight more U.S. points and seven from Canada, the U.S. lead was 32 points, 79-47, heading into the final 10 minutes.
Canada outscored the home team 27-25 in the fourth quarter as the USA coasted to a 104-74 win.
The USA outrebounded Canada 54-25, including 25 offensive boards that helped the USA tally 62 of its points in the paint compared to Canada’s 14.
Shaylisha Colley led Canada with 16 points.
For the five-game tournament, the USA outscored its opponents by a convincing 44.8 points per game margin, and four U.S. players averaged double-digit scoring, including a USA U18 Women’s competition record 19.0 points per game from Wilson, who also set a USA competition record for field goal percentage with 76.5 percent (39-51 FGs).
The U.S. team led the eight-team tournament in 13 of 21 team statistical categories, including points per game (106.0), scoring margin (+44.8), field goal percentage (.574), 3-point field goal percentage (.338), rebounding margin (+28.8), blocks per game (6.0) and assists per game (25.4).
Earlier today, Puerto Rico (3-2) captured fifth place with a 51-49 win over Chile (2-3), who finished in sixth place, and Mexico (2-3) topped El Salvador (0-5) 77-45 to finish in seventh and eighth places, respectively.
Additional Quotes from Recee' Caldwell
What is next for you?
"I'm going to start working hard for Coach (Cori) Close and the UCLA program. I will pick up right where I left off before I went to play for Team USA. We have a tough nonconference schedule so we have to prepare in order to do well."
What has this experience meant to you?
"It’s just an amazing experience. I was very blessed to have this opportunity to come here and to compete for a gold medal, and it’s just great to know that your hard work paid off. We did two-a-days for probably 12 days, and it was just crazy – it’s a great feeling."
How does it feel to win your second gold medal?
"The first time I didn’t play very much. I played my role and supported the team, but I think this one is great because I actually played, and I contributed on the court. It’s an amazing feeling, and I’m blessed."
How hard was it to beat Canada three times, even if one of those wins was a scrimmage?
"We for sure had to execute. It’s just like in college, they had their scouting report and knew our sets, but I think on the second or third options, they didn’t know what we were going to do because we had so many options. And then, we just pounded the ball inside to our bigs. That was our advantage in this tournament, and Coach Staley has been harping on that the whole time. I think our bench is deep. That is where we beat people. The first quarter, you might be able to stay with us, but once the game keeps going, you won’t be able to stay with us."
How was your experience with the Team USA coaches?
"It was amazing. Just the stuff they told me in practice, what I learned from them. To be a point guard under Coach Staley, it was hard. It was for sure hard. I would go home to the dorms and think, ‘Wow, this woman is crazy.’ But she knows what to do, so you’re crazy if you don’t listen to her. I really got better here."