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Saturday, July 20, 2019

China Takes Gold at Youth Olympics; Australia Nets Silver, Team USA Bronze

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Photo Caption: China’s Jin Jiabao (#5) celebrates after China defeated Australia, 33-29, to take the first ever gold medal in girls’ three-on-three basketball in the inaugural Youth Olympic Games currently underway in Singapore.

Photo Credit: Courtesy SPH-SYOGC/Yusuf Abdol Hamid

By Lee Michaelson

The Chinese girls’ basketball team surprised even themselves when they took the gold today at the inaugural Youth Olympic Games in Singapore. China held off an Australian rally to take the championship game, 33-29, as the Aussies settled for silver. Team USA took the bronze with a 34-16 victory over Canada.

“We expected to get into the top eight, but we didn’t expect to claim the title,” said Ma Xueya, China’s top scorer, who finished with 15 points. “We worked hard in each match and we never gave up and I’m very proud of winning a first Youth Olympic Games gold medal.”

The basketball competition in the Youth Olympics, a dream of International Olympic Committee Jacques Rogge, is limited to athletes aged 16 to 17 (born between January 1, 1993 and December 31, 1994). The basketball games have featured a half-court, three-on-three format, played in two five-minute halves. The game is won by the first team to score 33 points or the one in the lead at the end of regulation, whichever comes first. The format promotes a fast, exciting pace and places less emphasis on depth of talent than the traditional five-on-five, full-court format. At the same time, all three players on the floor at any time must be adept at the game, as there is little opportunity to “hide” a weaker player between one or two stars.

The three-on-three format, the same used in the Senior Olympics, gives some help to teams from countries where basketball is still in its developmental stages and may not be able to field a 12-deep team of athletes who are both skilled and experienced in the game. But the style proved to be a challenging transition for players more accustomed to the five-on-five full court game.

“At first, it was really frustrating, just because it’s kind of like a whole different sport,” said Tennessee-bound Andraya Carter a 5-9, 145-pound guard from Buford High School, Flowery Branch, Georgia.  “There’s different rules and different ways to play. You don’t have a bunch of other girls out there with you. I think it’s harder, because there’s only three of you out there on the court. There’s nowhere to hide. If you’re bad, everyone’s gonna know. If you don’t know what’s going on, everyone’s gonna be able to tell.”

The three-on-three game operates on a 10-second shot clock, and anytime there is a change of possession, the ball must be brought out behind the three-point line before the offense can score. The player who first gets the ball over the three-point line has to make one more pass before a bucket can count.

“The rules and the 10-second shot clock, it was hard at first. It went by so fast, and it was frustrating at first. But it’s fun, it’s different,” said Carter.

But players and coaches worked hard to get the hang of the game, and by the time they arrived in Singapore, the American team, spearheaded by 6-3 center Kiah Stokes of Marion, Iowa’s Linn Mar High School, who averaged 12.3 points per game over the course of the tournament, were favored to win it all. It was not to be, however.

Team USA stormed its way through the preliminary rounds and the quarterfinals undefeated with decisive victories over all of their opponents—Angola (30-8); host Singapore (34-11); Germany (33-6); Belarus (33-5); and South Korea (34-10)—to face Australia in the semifinals.

But the Aussies, who had suffered just one loss—a 10-17 fall to Japan in the preliminaries—refused to be intimidated. When a FIBA reporter told Australia team captain Olivia Bontempelli that it would be difficult for them to win their showdown with the Americans, she retorted, “We’re going to win it for sure!” She then put her “money” where her mouth was, scoring a game-high 15 points to carry her team to a 25-23 overtime upset over Team USA.

Photo Caption: Australian team captain Olivia Bontempelli (#9) drives hard to the hoop as Team USA’s Amber Henson (#7) defends. Bontempelli notched a game-high 15 points in Australia’s 25-23 overtime upset of the Americans.
Photo Credit: Courtesy SPH-SYOGOC/Joseph Nair

It took the Aussies some time to get started, however. The Americans marched out to a 15-7 lead at the half, and looked like they were well on the road to the championship game. But the Australians adjusted their defense in the second period, and the tides began to turn.

Photo Caption: Team USA’s Kiah Stokes (Linn Mar High School, Marion, IA) shoots over Australia’s Olivia Bontempelli in the semifinal match of the Singapore Youth Olympic Games. Stokes led the U.S. with a double-double of 11 points and 12 boards in the 23-25 overtime loss.
Photo Credit: Courtesy SPH-SYOGOC/Foo Chee Chang

“They were just collapsing on our big people,” said U.S. women’s head coach Kathy Richey-Walton (Southwest DeKalb High School, GA). “So that made it difficult to score.”

Photo Caption: The Australians stepped up their defense in the second half, holding the U.S., who led 15-7 by the end of the opening period, to just five points in the second period. “They were just collapsing on our big people,” said U.S. Coach Kathy Rickey-Walton (Southwest DeKalb High School, GA) afterward. Here, Team USA’s leading scorer, Kiah Stokes (Linn Mar High School, Marion, IA) is smothered by Australia’s Mikhaela Donnelly (left) and Rosemary Fadljevic (right) as Stokes attempts to score.
Photo Credit: Courtesy SPH-SYOGOC/Foo Chee Chang

The Australians went aggressively to the boards, with Bontempelli converting a conventional three-point play to close the gap to 15-10. Australia’s Rosemary Fadljevic tied the score at 15 apiece with four minutes remaining in regulation, and Hannah Kaser connected on a trey to give the Boomers their first lead of the game.

Carter broke the U.S. scoring drought, driving hard to the hoop for a lay-up, and then converting the penalty shot when she was fouled in the process, to tie the game at 20 apiece with 12 seconds remaining on the clock. Bontempelli and Kaser missed their attempts in the final seconds, and the game headed to overtime.

There was little scoring for either side in the extra minutes, but Bontempelli had just enough to give Australia the win, putting the Boomers in the lead 24-20 with a bank shot and two from the charity stripe. Carter netted a three-pointer to close the gap to one, but the Americans, forced to foul to stop the clock, failed to do so in time. Faldjevic went to the line with 1.3 seconds left to score the final point for Australia, but the clock ran out on U.S. hopes for gold.

“I thought they got their wake-up call (when the game went to overtime) and they were going to step it up” said Richey-Walton of her team’s loss. “But it just didn’t happen.”

Photo Caption: U.S. head coach Kathy Richey-Walton (Southwest DeKalb High School, Georgia), center, consoles Team USA’s Andraya Carter (Buford High School, Flowery Branch, GA), as she reacts to the American’s 23-25 overtime loss to Australia in the semifinals of the Singapore Youth Olympic Games. Carter had led the U.S. rally after the Boomers first grabbed the lead, but it would be too little, too late for the Americans.
Photo Credit: Courtesy SPH-SYOGOC/Joseph Nair

Though disappointed, to their credit, the Americans did not let the loss kill their enthusiasm and focus.

“We were obviously really disappointed yesterday,” said 6-3 forward Amber Henson of Tampa, Florida’s Sickles High School, who averaged 8.7 points and 3.3 rebounds per game over the course of the tournament. “But this morning we woke up like, ‘All right, we’re going to take it out on Canada.’ All that anger and disappointment, we put it on the court,” added Henson, who is committed to playing for Duke after she graduates in 2011.

And that, they did. Canada made a game of it for the first half, then succumbed, as Team USA outscored them 21-7 in the second period. The U.S. women held Canada to just 4-of-23 shooting from the field, and forced 11 turnovers, as Briyona Canty (Trenton Catholic Academy, Willingboro, N.J.) posted a game-high 15 points for the Americans and hauled down nine boards, also a game-high. Canty, the team’s assist leader at more than 3.7 per game, also served up two dishes and swiped two steals in a near-perfect game.

“We wanted to come out ready to go,” said Canty afterward. “At half time we said, ‘We gotta win, we’ve got to get to 33.’”

“We had to have a short memory from yesterday and mentally prepare for today,” Canty added. “We didn’t even want to play after yesterday, but to lose and bounce back like we did is a sign of a champion.”

Photo Caption: Team USA’s Briyana Canty (Trenton Catholic Academy, Willingboro, NJ) elevates over Canada’s Kaylee Halvorson in the Singapore Youth Olympics’ bronze medal girls’ basketball game. Canty led the U.S. to a 34-16 victory with a game-high 15 points and nine rebounds.
Photo Credit: Courtesy SPH-SYOGOC/Joseph Nair

Stokes added 10 for the American cause, Carter dropped in seven points, to which she added five boards and two assists, and Henson contributed two just points, but grabbed five boards and dished out two assists.

Photo Caption: Team USA’s Andraya Carter (Buford High School, Flowery Branch, GA) shoots over Canada’s Kaylee Kilpatrick during the bronze medal match. Carter posted seven points, five rebounds and two assists in the American win.
Photo Credit: Courtesy SPH-SYOGOC/Joseph Nair

Kaylee Kilpatrick led the Canadians with 11 points, but on just on just 2-for-10 from the field. Kaylee Halvorson added two more points for Team Canada, but Dakota Whyte and Tiye Traore were held scoreless, as the Americans nailed down the bronze medal with a 34-16 victory.

Photo Caption: Canada’s Kaylee Kilpatrick gets a hand in the face of Team USA’s Briyana Canty in the bronze medal match. Kilpatrick led Canada on offense with 11 points, but overall, it was a dismal shooting night for the Canucks.
Photo Credit: Courtesy SPH-SYOGOC/Daniel Ding

Whyte said afterward that while she was disappointed with the loss, she was proud of the way her team played throughout the tournament.

“A lot of people in Canada thought we wouldn’t even get in the top eight, so I’m just happy we got in the top four,” she said. “This is very special.”

Photo Caption: Canada’s Tiye Traore looks to shoot as Team USA’s Amber Henson (Sickles High School, Tampa, FL) defends. Team USA held the Canadians, who had been undefeated prior to their semifinal loss to China, to just 17.4 percent field-goal shooting in the bronze medal game.
Photo Credit: Courtesy SPH-SYOGOC/Daniel Ding

“We let one slip away, but we wanted to show that we were in control of what was going to happen,” said U.S. coach Richey-Walton. “So we wanted to be confident, regroup and get it done.”

“We talked about how they wanted to show their character. Obviously, (bronze) is not what we wanted, but to be able to refocus and get something out of it shows a lot of character. They could have easily folded and let this slip away. But they didn’t, and I’m proud of them.”

Photo Caption: U.S. girls’ basketball team members (left to right) Briyona Canty (Trenton Catholic Academy, Willingboro, NJ), Kiah Stokes (Linn Mar High School, Marion, IA) and Amber Henson (Sickles High School, Tampa, FL) receive their medals on Monday, August 23, 2010, after defeating Canada, 34-16, to take the bronze at the inaugural Youth Olympic Games in Singapore. Not pictured, but also medaling, is U.S. guard Andraya Carter (Buford High School, Flowery Branch, GA).
Photo Credit: Courtesy SPH-SYOGOC/Daniel Ding

But the day belonged to China, who entered the finals undefeated and dominated the first half of the championship game, leading Australia, 20-9, at the break.

Photo Caption: China’s Ma Xueya (#7) shoots over Australia’s Olivia Bontempelli (#9) during the gold medal game. China won, 33-29.
Photo Credit: Courtesy SPH-SYOGOC/Cheryl Wee

Australia rallied behind 16 second-half points from Bontempelli, who had been held to just two points in the opening period.

Photo Caption: Australia team captain Olivia Bontempelli (#9) looks to shoot as China’s Jin Jiabao (#5) defends in the title game of the Singapore Youth Olympics. Bontempelli scored 18 points, 16 of them in the second half, to lead an Aussie comeback that fell just short of tying the game.
Photo Credit: Courtesy SPH-SYOGOC/Cheryl Wee

But the rally fell short, as China’s Jin Jiabao sank the critical free throw that took China’s score over the 33-point mark with less than a minute left to ice the 33-29 victory and take the first gold medal in girls’ basketball in the Youth Olympic Games. Ma Xueya led China with 15 points.

Bontempelli had a game-high 18 points for Australia, but as a team, the Aussies shot just 29 percent (9-for-31) from the field.

Photo Caption: Australia’s Rosemary Fadljevic attempts to drive past China’s Jin Jiabao in the gold medal game.
Photo Credit: Photo Credit: Courtesy SPH-SYOGOC/Selwyn Yeo

Australia’s Mikhaela Donnelly said the Boomers had gone into the second half with a now-or-never attitude. “I think we just thought that if we gave up there and then, there wasn’t any point in us being here anyway,” she said. “We worked as hard as we could but they were just the better team on the day.”

Photo Caption: Members of the Chinese girls’ national basketball team—(left to right) Shen Yi, Jin JiabaoYang Xi, and Ma Xueya—sing their national anthem while watching their country’s flag raised during medal ceremonies at the Singapore Youth Olympics. “We didn’t expect to win,” said Ma afterward.
Photo Credit: Courtesy SPH-SYOGOC/Daniel Ding

In the end, however, the Australians were justifiably proud of their accomplishments in taking home the silver. “I can’t even explain it,” said Donnelly. “Just getting a medal and finishing this high in the competition is just such a privilege and I’m so proud of every single one of our girls. We gave it all we had and I think we deserved it [the silver medal].”

Photo Caption: Australian girls’ basketball team members (left to right) Rosemary Fadljevic, Mikhaela Donnelly, Hannah Kaser and Olivia Bontempelli celebrate their silver medals during the victory ceremony at the Singapore Youth Olympics.
Photo Credit: Courtesy SPH-SYOGOC/Selwyn Yeo


Originally published Mon, August 23, 2010

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Week: February 7, 2012
1 Baylor (31) 24-0 1 1 1 775
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