Rolling undefeated through the inaugural 2010 FIBA U17 World Championship, the 2010 USA Women's U17 World Championship Team (8-0) capped its impressive performance with a 92-62 win over host France (5-3) in front of a raucous crowd in the tournament's gold-medal game on July 25 in Toulouse, France.
The Americans had previously beaten the home team in its opening game of preliminary play back in Rodez, France on July 16.
"We knew France would come out and play hard," Barbara Nelson, USA U17 and Wingate University head coach. "They had the crowd on their side. They had all the energy of playing at home, and because we had already beaten them, they could play very loose and just go for it. I'm proud of the intensity that we matched, and I'm just excited for the girls that we won."
For a fifth time in the eight-game tournament, all 12 U.S. players scored, led by 20 points and six assists from Ariel Massengale (Bolingbrook H.S./Bolingbrook, Ill.), 15 points and five rebounds and three assists from Kaleena Lewis (Mater Dei H.S./Anaheim, Calif) and 15 points, five rebounds and three blocks from Elizabeth Williams (Princess Anne H.S./Virginia Beach, Va.).
"Words cannot explain how I feel," Massenagle said. "It's just a great honor, and we are all blessed to have had this opportunity to do something like this."
Behind six points each from Lewis and Massengale, the USA had built a 26-10 advantage after the first quarter, but France fought back in the second period. With the help of three 3-pointers in the first four minutes of the second stanza, France had taken a 31-30 lead. The USA quickly responded, and a Massengale long-ball at 5:30 ignited a 20-7 U.S. run that gave the Americans a 50-38 advantage at halftime.
"We knew, especially with a big crowd, that France was going to be a dogfight, especially in the first half because they were going to get a lot of their energy straight from the crowd," Williams said. "It was something that we were expecting, and we just had to push through it. I think offensively we were more patient in the second half, and we didn't really let the crowd get to us to much, and then we definitely locked up defensively. We knew if we got stops, our offense would come to us."
France, which had shot 7-of-14 from 3-point in the first 20 minutes, cooled off in the second half as the U.S. defense tightened up. A 6-1 spurt that included four points from Breanna Stewart (Cicero North Syracuse H.S./North Syracuse, N.Y.) forced France to call a timeout at 8:02 with the USA up by 17 points, 56-39. From there, France would get no closer than 16 points in the third quarter and no closer than 20 points in the fourth.
As was the case for all eight games, the USA wore out its opponent with its depth, receiving 16 points off the bench in the third period alone, including five points from Betnijah Laney (Smyrna H.S./Clayton, Del.) and four apiece form Cierra Burdick (Butler H.S./Matthews, N.C.) and Bria Smith (Christ the King H.S./Massapequa, N.Y.).
"Words can't describe how I feel," Burdick said. "It's unbelievable. All that hard work, all month long, sweat, tears, blood, it's all there at that podium, and it just felt great."
The USA outscored France 17-8 in the final period to finish with a 30-point, 92-62 win.
Overall, the USA led the 12-team tournament in 13 of 19 team statistical categories, including scoring margin (+37.4), rebounding margin (+24.6), field goal percentage (.497), 3-point percentage (.408), assists per game (18.9) and blocks per game (7.4).
Four players averaged double figures for the USA, including Williams (13.5 ppg.), Stewart (12.8 ppg.), Lewis (11.6 ppg.) and Massenagle (10.1 ppg.). Williams and Stewart also led the USA in rebounding, with 7.6 rpg. and 7.5 rpg., respectively.
Additionally, Massengale led all tournament participants with 5.4 apg. (43).
"They have just grown so much as a team and learning how to share the ball, be good screeners, play hard on both ends," Nelson said. "All of these girls are the best players in their high schools, and they learned how to give up the 'me' for the 'we' and play for hard for the USA. I'm really proud of that."
China (5-2) topped Belgium (5-2) 85-73 for the bronze medal, Japan (4-4) finished fifth with a 74-68 win over Russia (3-5) and Australia (4-4) downed Spain (2-6) 74-48 for seventh place.