The U.S., which trailed 57-55 heading into the fourth quarter, received a combined 57 points from four different players on the night, including 15 apiece from Jolene Anderson (Wisconsin / Port Wing, Wis.), Essence Carson (Rutgers / Paterson, N.J.) and Abby Waner (Duke / Highlands Ranch, Colo.), while Crystal Langhorne (Maryland / Willingboro, N.J.) pitched in an additional 12 points.
The USA is preparing to defend its world title in this age group, open to athletes 21-years-old or younger (born on or after Jan. 1, 1986), at the 2007 FIBA U21 World Championship, held this year June 29-July 8 in Moscow, Russia.
The USA and French U21 squads will meet once more, at 7:00 p.m. (1:00 p.m. EDT) on June 21 in La Garde, France. The Americans will remain in Antibes and train through June 25 before traveling to Moscow for the U21 Worlds.
"It was a very physical basketball game, I can’t underscore it enough," said USA U21 National Team and Duke University (N.C.) head coach Joanne P. McCallie. "I thought that we did some good things. Obviously we found lots of different ways to score. But defensively I think we were, without a doubt, our best in the fourth quarter. It was great lock down defense for 10 minutes, it was what we needed and it was a good lesson for our team to understand what we can do when we really focus on defending as we did in the fourth."
The game, which saw the team combine for 35 fouls, was very physical and fast paced. France, the bronze medalists behind Russia (gold) and Hungary (silver) at the 2006 FIBA European U20 Championship, for the second night was not allowing the United States breathing room on any possession.
France won the first (18-16) and third (16-14) quarters by two points, while the USA collected the second (25-23), also by a two-point edge, and the game went down to the final 10-minute period.
"France definitely came out with their A-plus game today," said Carson. "We couldn’t get it together the first three quarters. They came out very physical, that’s one thing. They came out a little bit more physical than what we expected so it took us a little while to adjust."
The hosts drew first blood and upped their lead to 59-55 with 9:04 remaining and at the 8:03 mark still led by two, 61-59. However, Waner stepped back, took a cross-court pass from Anderson, and sent in her fourth three of the game to make it 62-61 at 7:45 and the United States never again trailed. France again knotted the score, however, and with 6:45 to play the game was even at 64-64.
Eleven seconds later, Waner repaid Anderson with an assist as Anderson gave the Americans a lead it would never relinquish, 66-64 at 6:34. The USA’s defense, which picked up the pressure in the fourth quarter, continued to fluster France as Anderson’s bucket sparked a 17-4 run to close the contest.
" It was about making smart passes and playing together and realizing that in order for the USA to win, we’re going to have to play some USA defense," added Carson. "That’s what pretty much got us over the hump in the fourth quarter."
France’s Isabelle Yacoubou, who was the MVP of last summer’s FIBA European U20 Championship, sat out most of the second half after picking up four fouls in the first. She fouled out on a Laura Harper (Maryland / Elkins Park, Pa.) drive with just under a minute remaining in the game as the Terp converted a traditional 3-point play to give the U.S. its final points of the night.
In addition to the USA’s high scorers of Anderson, Carson, Langhorne and Waner, the red, white and blue was assisted on the win by a game-high 10 rebounds to go with seven points from Courtney Paris (Oklahoma / Piedmont, Calif.), eight boards and three steals from Langhorne, five assists and nine points from Candice Wiggins (Stanford / San Diego, Calif.) and four assists from Waner, who scored all 15 of her points from beyond the arc (5-7 3pt FGs).
"We have great depth on this basketball team," said Anderson. "It’s just something, everybody plays together, everybody knows their role. Whether you start or come off the bench, it doesn’t matter. It’s all about the team and the team’s goal." More...