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USA – Golden Girls return for another episode
PUERTO MONTT (2011 FIBA U19 World Championship for Women) – Not many players get the chance to win gold medals at two basketball world championships within 12 months, but seven talented young ladies did exactly that at the FIBA U19 World Championship for Women in Chile.
Cierra Burdick, Ariel Massengale, Jordan Adams, Breanna Stewart, Kaleena Lewis, Morgan Tuck and Elizabeth Williams were all key members of the US team that blazed their way, undefeated to the title at last year’s inaugural FIBA U17 World Championship for Women in Toulouse, France.
While last year’s triumph was special, for 2011 All-Tournament Team selection Breanna Stewart the U19 triumph was even sweeter. “Getting two gold medals is wonderful,” she beamed following her team’s 69-46 win over Spain.
“This year (is better), it’s the most recent one, and it was a lot more competitive this year than last year.”
Stewart was joined in the All-Tournament Team by Massengale, whose outstanding point guard play on the last weekend propelled her into the best five. “It’s amazing, just growing up this is what you hope and dream for, and all the hard the work we have put in up to this point has been worth it.
“They’re both the same, they both make the top of my list,” she said comparing her two gold medal experiences. “These other countries are getting better but so are we, so we are still able to compete at the highest level.”
While the USA dominated Brazil and Spain in the medal rounds in Chile, gold looked far from certain for much of this year’s tournament, unlike in the 2010 U17 tournament where their smallest winning margin was 23 points.
A minor scare against Japan, a narrow escape against China and a 64-52 loss to Canada showed the three-time defending champions were anything but invincible. Massengale said this was something the team addressed directly.
“At the beginning we were still trying to get to know each other as a team,” she said. “We all sat down and had a meeting and defined our roles. We pretty much told each other what we needed of the other person and that helped us tremendously.”
In the end the USA were undisputed champions for the fourth consecutive time, and no one had more influence in the big games than Massengale, who led the unstoppable US offence with controlled aggression. “My teammates told me they needed me, and the coach told me for this team to win, they will only go as far as I lead them,” she said.
Massengale led the 2010 U17 World Championship for Women in assists with 5.4 per game, and in the medal round in Chile she found even better form, speeding up the floor on each possession and dishing out 16 assists across the two games.
For the 1.68m point guard, she was just doing the job that was necessary to add that second gold medal to her trophy cabinet. “I had to push the ball and get my teammates open shots, and I’m just glad they were hitting them!”
Expect to see plenty more of that in years to come from Ariel Massengale.