AUCKLAND (FIBA U19 World Championship) - The USA have claimed the gold medal at the FIBA U19 World Championship, holding off a second half comeback from Greece to record an 88-80 victory and win the title for the first time since 1991.
The Americans shot 52% on two point shots, 40% from the perimeter and 81% from the free throw line. It would prove decisive as Greece could only convert on 44%, 35% and 71% respectively.
In the first quarter, the lead changed or scores were tied on 15 occasions, highlighting the quality and evenness of the competition’s two best teams. Leonidas Kaselakis (7 points) and Seth Curry (5 points) were the most dangerous players on the court as scores were tied 19-19.
In the second quarter, the Americans’ shots kept dropping, the Greeks’ did not, as they connected on just 2/15 for the period. 10 points from Tyshawn Taylor helped the USA to a 27-11 quarter and a 16-point advantage.
As with the USA’s semi final, they could not match their opponents after half time, as Greece won the quarter 21-14. They could have been much closer after missing 7 free throws in the term, including three straight misses from Vlantimir Ginakovits.
A spectacular alley-oop finish from Arnett Moultrie capped a 5-0 run in the first 74 seconds of the final period to extend the lead 14, and although Greece challenged on numerous occasions and closed to 8 points with 7:51 to play, the USA had the answers.
When Klay Thompson and Ashton Gibbs hit back-to-back triples the lead was 73-61 and the gold medal decided.
Leading scorers for the USA were Tyshawn Taylor (18 points, 6 assists, 5 steals), Gibbs (13 points), Thompson (10 points, 3 blocks) and Moultrie (10 points, 9 rebounds).
For Greece, Kostas SLoukas (17 points, 4 assists, 4 steals), Nikolaos Pappas (16 points), Kaselakis (15 points, 6 rebounds) and Kostas Papanikolaou (12 points, 5 rebounds) all tried gallantly.
It is the USA’s fourth triumph at the FIBA U19 World Championship, while for Greece, their silver medal joins the gold they won in 1995 in Athens, and the bronze they secured in Thessaloniki in 2003.
They said :
Tyshawn Taylor, USA :
“It feels good, we put in a lot of hard work. We’ve been together for three, three and a half weeks now, going real hard. All the hard work has paid off, so everybody’s excited and happy.
Coach Dixon kept letting us know that we haven’t won this tournament for a while. This was our time, we knew with the guys that we brought with this team, we didn’t have any superstars on this team, we just had players who liked being with each other, liked playing with each other, and we knew it was going to be a fun experience.
Just playing hard and playing as a team. I think some people thought we were going to come out here and play selfish just because we were American and go to different colleges. But we all just came out here and play selfless and made the extra pass. I think we played 9 games and had a different leading scorer nearly every time.
I hope so (play for the USA men’s team some day), I will see how things go. I hope I am able to, I hope they give me that call to let me know!”
Jamie Dixon, USA coach :
“It really is rewarding, especially now. The whole thing has been a great experience. We really set as a goal to win the gold medal. We also made it very clear that we hadn’t won this since 1991 – we’ve talked about that and used it as motivation throughout the time we have been together, and that really was an important part of our work ethic.
There’s no question that (having played in New Zealand) makes it more special for me. There’s no question that was one of the reasons I wanted to be a part of it.
It’s my first time doing it (coaching the USA) I’ll probably learn something after the fact here. It’s a different style of play, we had to get used to the rules first, that was something we really tried to emphasise to our players in training camp.
This team was unique in terms of US teams, in that it was best suited for international play. We may not have had as many name guys as other (US) teams but it really was suited, and I think we selected guys who were suited to the international style of play.”
Nikolaos Pappas, Greece captain :
“It was a good tournament but we wanted a lot to win this game. It was a bad night for us, but it was a final which was good. We have a tournament now, a European championship, so we stay focussed for this tournament.
It was a success, but we wanted to be first! But we are very happy, second in the world is a success.
The USA are a very good team, very athletic, very fast, very good teamwork. But we didn’t play very good in defence, they had a lot of free shots. We gave them this opportunity and the take it.”