USA beats Russia for 78-70 victory and sixth-straight U19 gold medal
The United States earned its sixth consecutive FIBA U19 Women’s World Championship gold after successfully holding off host nation Russia 78-70 in Sunday’s final.
South Carolina Gamecocks sophomore A’ja Wilson’s 30 points set a new record for most points scored in a game by a USA player in the competition. Team USA has won the last six editions of the tournament dating back to 2005. By finishing second, Russia returned to the podium for the first time since 2001.
Australia beat Spain 69-62 to claim the bronze medal.
Gamecocks coach and former Olympian Dawn Staley guided the team to victory.
“I had a great opportunity to work with A’ja and Napheesa last summer, so I think they were familiar with our style of play and how we like to play,” said Staley, who is a perfect 21-0 as a USA Basketball head coach. “It was great to have their veteran leadership coming into a tournament like this and also playing well throughout, just setting the tone and setting the example of how we need to play and how we need to approach it to win in a tight situation like tonight in the gold medal game.”
Wilson was named the competition’s most valuable player. She headlined the All-Star team joined by teammate Napheesa Collier, Russia’s Maria Vadeeva and Daria Kolosovskaia plus incoming Stanford freshman Alanna Smith of Australia.
Staley’s game plan included neutralizing Russia’s biggest threats.
“What we wanted to do was limit the amount of production from their top two scorers, Raisa Musina and Maria Vadeeva. We just tried to cut their production in half to try to make other players beat us. Fortunately for us it kind of worked for long stretches in the game, but a team like Russia is not going to go away. They are a really good basketball team. They work well together. They are going to win a lot more basketball games. I hope we only see them in gold-medal games, because they are a crew that is hard to reckon with.”
In the classification games, France held off Belgium 53-40 for fifth place, China cruised past Canada 67-47 to finish seventh, while Netherlands came in ninth after beating Brazil 83-72, Serbia saw off Mali 58-46 for 11th place, Korea grabbed 13th place with a 78-67 defeat of Chinese Taipei and Argentina defeated Egypt 50-43 for 15th place.
Final standings of the 2015 FIBA U19 Women’s World Championship:
- A’ja Wilson becomes just the fourth USA athlete to participate in and claim two FIBA U19 World Championship medals after claiming gold in 2013. She joins the trio of Baylor’s Alexis Jones and Connecticut’s Morgan Tuck and Breanna Stewart, who teamed up in 2011 and 2013 to win gold medals.
- USA head coach Dawn Staley became the first U.S. coach to both play in and coach a USA U19 World Championship Team. Previously known as the FIBA Junior World Championship, Staley’s first outing in a USA Basketball uniform came at the 1989 Junior Worlds. Her U.S. team finished in seventh place with a 3-4 record.
- After finishing off the podium in the first three FIBA U19/Junior World Championships (1985, 1989, 1993), the United States has medaled in every U19/Junior Worlds since then.
- Russia previously claimed two silver medals at the FIBA U19s, in 2001 and 1993.
- This marked Australia’s third bronze medal. The nation, which also won gold in 1993 and silver in 1997, also took bronze in 1989 and 2013.
USA U19 head coach Dawn Staley (South Carolina)
On the game plan for the gold-medal game against Russia:
What we wanted to do was limit the amount of production from their top two scorers, Raisa Musina and Maria Vadeeva. We just tried to cut their production in half to tried to make other players beat us. Fortunately for us it kind of worked for long stretches in the game, but a team like Russia is not going to go away. They are a really good basketball team. They work well together. They are going to win a lot more basketball games. I hope we only see them in gold-medal games, because they are a crew that is hard to reckon with.
On Napheesa Collier and A’ja Wilson’s contributions:
I had a great opportunity to work with A’ja and Napheesa last summer, so I think they were familiar with our style of play and how we like to play. It was great to have their veteran leadership coming into a tournament like this and also playing well throughout, just setting the tone and setting the example of how we need to play and how we need to approach it to win in a tight situation like tonight in the gold medal game.
On a tough gold medal game:
It is great for the players. Now they get a chance to see what international play is all about. You win big in pool play. In the medal rounds, the leads that you had, they tighten. Then in the gold medal game you are always going to be challenged in some way. I think sometimes, our young players do not get to why they need to be disciplined in lop-sided victories. But, we are always playing for that stretch of a ball game when you can win or lose it. I was glad that we had A’ja and Napheesa in there to be a force on the floor, and a calm in the midst of our storm.
On assistant coaches, Jeff Walz and Kim Barnes:
I don’t know who the committee is that picked this staff, but it was a great staff. They always had suggestions as to what we should do next. It was never more apparent than in this gold medal game, where they made some calls that gave us an edge to go out there and win a gold medal. And, I love them for it. I respect them even more. I know them as competitors, but to know them in this way means a lot.
USA assistant coach Kim Barnes-Arico (Michigan)
On winning a gold medal:
It was an incredible feeling. For the last two years, I feel so honored to have been asked to help coach for USA Basketball. To have the opportunity to be surrounded by greatness, whether it is the players that I have opportunity to coach that are the best in their particular age group, or the coaches and the staff that I get to work with everyday. So, for me it has been a dream come true and just an incredible opportunity. I am so thankful for it.
On the staff:
It is incredible. I have known Jeff for a long time because we played against each other for a number of years, being in the same conference, when we were both in the Big East. But I have always followed Dawn from a far. We are about the same age, so I have watched her as a player. I watched her carry the flag in the Olympics. She is always someone that I have admired and has been an inspiration in our game. When Carol (Callan) originally asked me and I found out that Dawn was the head coach, from then it was an incredible experience. And, for the last two years, I have had the opportunity to work with her and I have learned so much from her. But really, one of the things that I have learned from her is that she is just an incredible person. She is discipline and driven in everything that she does. It has been great to be surrounded by her for an extended period of time, to be surrounded by excellence. I have enjoyed every minute of it. Russia, I would have never come to Russia if it weren’t for this trip. So, the whole thing has been a wonderful experience. It has really been an honor and incredible. Everyday that I get to put on this shirt, I am reminded of how fortunate I am.
USA assistant coach Jeff Walz (Louisville)
On winning a gold-medal game:
It is a remarkable feeling. You go through all the time we spent together to get to this point, and it was our ultimate goal to win gold. We were fortunate enough to be able to do that tonight in a game that was a back-and-forth. It was an exciting game, a great environment. I thought the kids did a wonderful job.
On working with Kim (Barnes Arico) and Dawn (Staley):
You see each other on the road recruiting. You get a chance every once in a while to play against each other. But now, to actually be able to sit down and throw ideas off of each other and take a little bit from each coach and put it together and see it work, it’s fun. It is great to be able to share ideas and learn from each other.
Kristine Anigwe (Desert Vista H.S./Phoenix, Ariz.)
On the journey:
It has been fun. I made a lot of great friends, and I got to be a part of something great.
On the feeling of a gold medal around her neck:
It was remarkable. It was a surreal feeling to see all of the hard work finally pay off. It just felt really good.
On the different meaning of the National Anthem being played with the flag being raised:
We did it. Everything we worked so hard for this past month, all the struggles, like losing players, gaining players, it has all been surreal, and I’m just really proud that we got to the final and won.
Napheesa Collier (Incarnate Word Academy/O’Fallon, Mo.)
On winning gold:
It feels amazing. All the hard work that we all put in showed tonight. It paid off.
On winning gold after a tough game:
Definitely, I think these are the best games. These are my favorite kind of games, so I am glad that it was a tough game.
On being named to the all-tournament team:
I was really shocked, and I think everyone could tell, because I was super confused, walking in circles when he was trying to tell me where to go. But, I was really proud.
On A’ja Wilson being named to the all-tournament team:
I am so proud of her. She deserved it, definitely. She played so well this tournament.
On how this will help her going into college:
This is going to help me a lot, because it has showed me how to play with college players and against them. So, it gives me a little bit of extra experience.
Lauren Cox (Flower Mound H.S./Flower Mound, Texas)
On being a two-time U19 World Champion:
It is awesome. It feels great. I am glad that I got to share this experience with this awesome team, awesome coaching staff and everyone else that contributed. It is an awesome feeling.
On how much she has learned in the last month:
I have learned a lot. I am one of the youngest on the team, so playing with and against these older players really taught me a lot, and I learned a lot from the coaches.
On the feeling when the gold medal was placed on her neck:
It is awesome, just wearing USA across my chest with a gold medal around my neck. It is a great feeling that I can represent my country.
Crystal Dangerfield (Blackman H.S./Murfreesboro, Tenn.)
On winning the gold medal:
It is a relief, a sigh of relief. We have been working so hard for a month now, and to reach our ultimate goal is really great.
On if the win is better because it was a tough game:
Definitely. I don¹t ever like to have things handed to us, so being able to go out and beat Russia on their home court and then to have to earn it, because it was a hard-fought game, made it even better.
On what she has learned:
I have learned a lot, especially under coach Staley. With her being a point guard herself; running under her and knowing that the point guard has to be the leader, I will take that to high school then on to college.
Mariya Moore (Louisville/Richmond, Calif.)
On Chatrice White’s 3-pointer to end the third quarter:
Personally, I was so hyped. I would not say we were down, feeling down, but I think that just boosted us even more to help us push through in the last quarter.
On experiencing this with her head coach, Jeff Walz:
It means a lot. He pushed me through the game, and even though I wasn’t shooting that well, he told me things that I could do to help the team, so I just listened to him. To have his support on the sideline was really nice.
On being a gold medalist:
It feels crazy. It hasn’t even set in yet, but the part that feels the best to me is that we came out here for a purpose. We came out here to handle something, and we handled it. It feels great.
Gabbi Ortiz (Oklahoma/Racine, Wis.)
On winning the gold medal after a hard-fought game:
It is a pretty amazing feeling. It is kind of surreal. You dream about getting that, let alone playing for a USA team is awesome. We fought hard. It was an awesome gold medal game. I am so happy to be able to win this with these girls.
On the experience:
It has been really fun. It was a long road. We went through a lot of adversity; you are traveling for a really long time. So, we had to fight through. I think this experience is a once in a lifetime experience, you might be able to do it again, but I was just ecstatic to be on this team.
Ali Patberg (Columbus North H.S./Columbus, Ind.)
On winning gold:
It feels amazing. After the game, I thanked Carol (Callan). Obviously, I was so blessed to come and have the opportunity to try to help the team win a gold medal, and we did it. It feels second to none. I have never had this feeling before. So, it feels great.
On how much the experience will help her going into Notre Dame:
I can tell it has already helped a lot. The pace was a lot quicker here than what I have played before. And the knowledge of the game — I have learned so much from all the coaches and all the players. I think my defense has gotten better since I have been here. I have learned so much. I have become a better student of the game.
Destiny Slocum (Mountain View H.S./Meridian, Idaho)
On the feeling of being a world champion:
It is amazing. I don’t think there is anything better than representing your country and also winning a gold medal for it. The honor is a blessing.
On did the tough game make the gold medal even sweeter:
It did. Everyone wants a good game, especially for the championship, and the crowd really gave it to us. For us to overcome adversity was a bittersweet feeling, and that adds on to the gold, I think.
On Asia Wilson as MVP and Napheesa Collier joining her on the all-tournament team:
They are two amazing players, and they are two players that really changed the team as a whole. We ran through them, and they contribute so much. I think without them, we would have had a really tough time.’
Azurá Stevens (Duke/Raleigh, N.C.)
On the difficulty of playing on the inside against Russia:
It was really hard, especially against the crowd. They were so amped up. It was like playing against another player. Their girls down low are just really physical, which we have dealt with before, but we had not really faced a team with three and four girls like they had. That was tough on the inside.
On winning a gold medal:
Amazing. When the clock was ticking down, I was just so elated with emotions and couldn’t even contain it. I was so excited. It is just awesome, especially winning a gold medal with this team. This whole journey has been awesome.
On A’ja Wilson and Napheesa Collier making the all-tournament team:
Awesome. I am so proud of them. They were great players, and it has been amazing to play with them, and I look forward to playing against them this year.
Chatrice White (Illinois/Shelby, Neb.)
On her shot going into the fourth:
I just knew that I had to get a shot off before the quarter ended. I just got it up, and I didn’t know if it was going to go in, but when I did, I was so excited. I just saw my teammates jump up off the bench. That was the lead that we needed to give us an extra boost going into the fourth quarter.
On the fourth quarter:
I don’t think that they had a really big post presence to play against on defense, that was just kind of my role tonight. Coach Dawn said to get in Maria Vadeeva’s head and play her tough. That is what I tried to do.
On winning the gold medal:
It feels so great. This is the biggest medal that I have ever won, and on such a big stage, in front of this huge crowd, in front of all of Russia, pretty much, it just feels good now that we get go home on this really good note.
A’ja Wilson (South Carolina/Hopkins, S.C.)
On the game in a tough environment:
It was so tough. I thought away games were tough, but playing an away game in a whole different country against the home team is just out of this world. They had such great fans that were nonstop cheering. It was hard. I told the girls when we were sitting around at pre-game, they asked how are we were going to hear, and I said, ‘You all are going to hear one voice and that is going to be Dawn Staley. I know that she is going to make her voice be heard no matter what.’ So as long as I can hear her voice, that is pretty much it. It kept me calm to understand what she wanted on the court. It was tough playing in that environment, but it is always good to hear that one American voice.
On the win:
It was amazing. I cannot explain the feeling that I get. It never feels old to get a gold medal and hear your National Anthem. It was great to win this medal, and to win against the host team is always great.
On being named MVP and to the All-Star team:
It is great. And, congratulations to Napheesa as well. She played a great game. It is great to be listed among those great players that really worked hard. Just to come out with gold with this team is great.
On having two U19 gold medals:
It feels great; it really does. And going from two years ago when I was that young girl, 16-year-old, trying to take it all in as a role player, to being the MVP, the captain of this team. It goes to show that if you just work hard and let it all come to you, everything will be great. That is something I will take away from this, is letting it come to you, knowing how to play your role and what is to be expected of you.