PUERTO MONTT (2011 FIBA U19 World Championship for Women) - The USA has once again proved they are the queens of women's world basketball, defeating Spain 69-46 to claim the gold medal at the FIBA U19 World Championship for Women in Puerto Montt, Chile.
It was a consummate team performance from the Americas champions, who have now won two U19, one U17 and a senior women's world championship in the past 24 months.
Coach Jennifer Rizzotti was delighted with their performance. "Obviously we are ecstatic with the win and very proud of my girls for how much they have had to come along to be this good," she said. "We kind of had to figure ourselves out, but it's always nice when you are playing your best basketball at the end of the tournament."
Stefanie Dolson, Elizabeth Williams and Kaleena Lewis all scored 15 points for the USA, while point guard Ariel Massengale was again superb with 10 points, 7 assists, and too much speed for her opponents.
Only centre Astou Ndour (10 points, 6 rebounds) made double figures for Spain, who were completely outmatched by the faster, stronger and more committed Americans.
Ndour opened the game with tough fade-away jump shot, to which Bria Hartley responded with a long range three-pointer.
The USA then established the first break of the game, but when Laura Gil beat the shot clock with an unlikely three point shot Spain was back within 11-9. Dolson then scored twice in a row for the USA, and when Lewis and Massengale nailed back to back triples the lead was 11 points.
Dolson opened the second quarter with a lay-up from an amazing Cierra Burdick assist, and Williams powered her way to three straight buckets to give the USA a 33-17 lead with 4:31 to play and the signs were ominous for Spain.
The USA started the second half where they had left off, Breanna Stewart opening the scoring in the third quarter on a fast break lay-up, and though Spain closed briefly to 13 points, a typical Lewis triple at a key moment stopped the Spaniards in their tracks.
From there Spain never threatened, and the USA played out the final quarter knowing they would be world champions in 2011.
Ariel Massengale (USA): "Credit to Spain, they played a great game. I am just grateful that my teammates came out to play, I think we were very focused tonight."
"We've been on this journey for three weeks and all of it paid off tonight in the game, and we had a great coaching staff to top it all off."
Jennifer Rizzotti (USA head coach): "I am very excited to be standing up here as a gold medal winner. I don't think I realised until I arrived here and saw our competition how difficult this tournament would be to win."
"I thought our play earlier in the tournament was inconsistent because we relied on individual talent and didn't play as a team, but I am very happy to see that our team was able to come together and play team basketball on the last few days."
"I feel we learned a lot from everybody here, particularly Spain, who I think plays the best team basketball at both ends of the court. We learned a lot from Brazil, who played with more passion than any other team here. So we just needed to put all that together - team basketball like Spain plays, and passion like Brazil plays - and I thought we did that tonight, and that's the reason we won the gold medal."
Marina Delgado (Spain): "First of all I would like to congratulate the United States because they played a fantastic game, they played perfectly well, and physically they were superior to us."
"The United States team came to the game to win, but we were very nervous and that put us in a bad situation. The United States got their advantage very quickly, and they were about 15 points in front from early in the game."
Carlos Colinas (Spain head coach): "Congratulations to the United States for their result. For us it was really a success to be in the final of the world championship, after very irregular participation."
"We knew that to win the game we needed the United States to struggle with our strategy, but they gained a big lead over the first and second quarters and that decided the game."
"In a situation like today, when the difference is very big, all members of the Spanish team still have the satisfaction of getting the silver medal, and Spanish women's basketball has been shown to be one of the best in the world."
photos Janos Schmidt