USA U17 Women Go Unbeaten in World Championship Prelims

Despite having already secured Group A's No. 1 seed, the 2010 USA Women's U17 World Championship Team (5-0) put together its most dominating performance yet of the 2010 FIBA U17 World Championship and easily overpowered Japan (2-3) 133-71 to close out preliminary round play on July 21 in Rodez, France.

The USA, which was led by 30 points, seven rebounds, three assists and three blocks from Breanna Stewart (Cicero North Syracuse H.S./North Syracuse, N.Y.), featured seven players in double figures, and for a third consecutive game, all 12 U.S. players scored.

"We knew we had a size advantage, and so the game plan was to go inside as early and as often as we possibly could and establish in the paint, forcing them to defend that to get a little easier shots on the perimeter," said Barbara Nelson, USA U17 and Wingate University head coach. "Japan is extremely quick, and so we needed to negate their quickness with our size, which was the game plan. The girls did a great job. We never talked about that we had already qualified. The coaches never mentioned that. We didn't think that was important. We thought the game today was what was important."

The USA's size advantage was apparent in its 96 points in the paint compared to Japan's 28 and its 66-27 rebounding advantage.

"Our game plan was to get the ball inside, definitely in the first half to let the ball hit the paint before any outside shots went up, and I think we executed that really well," said Elizabeth Williams (Princess Anne H.S./Virginia Beach, Va.), who finished with 16 points on 7-of-7 shooting from the field, along with eight rebounds and five assists.

By the time Stewart got her first rest of the game at the 4:16 mark in the first quarter, she was 6-of-6 from the field and had compiled 13 points to help the USA race to a 24-6 lead.

"Really today was just like any other game when someone else is scoring," Stewart said. "Pretty much everyone on our team can score, and there might be one person who does a little more each game, but that's just the way we play."

The USA shot a sizzling 56-of-87 from the field (64.4 percent) for the game, and shared the ball, tallying 35 assists, including 10 from Ariel Massengale (Bolingbrook H.S./Bolingbrook, Ill.).

Seven U.S players contributed points in the first quarter to help the USA build a 35-12 advantage that only grew as the game progressed. Outscoring Japan 25-15 in the second period, the USA led 61-27 at halftime.

The third quarter was the USA's highest-scoring yet of the tournament, compiling 37 points from nine U.S. players while Japan tallied 23, and the USA held a 48-point lead, 98-50, headed into the final stanza.

The red, white and blue outscored Japan 35-21 in the fourth to bring the game to its 133-71 final.

Kaleena Lewis (Mater Dei H.S./Anaheim, Calif) added 14 points, while Cierra Burdick (Butler H.S./Matthews, N.C.), Bashaara Graves (Clarksville H.S./Clarksville, Tenn.), Betnijah Laney (Smyrna H.S./Clayton, Del.) and Morgan Tuck (Bolingbrook H.S./Bolingbrook, Ill.) each scored 10 points.

"We weren't really looking at that, the fact that we already qualified, we just come out every day and every game and try to bring our A game and bring our best game," Burdick said. "We don't look at the score, we just try to improve ourselves every play and every possession and get our best game so we can carry it on through these next three games in Toulouse."

The United States won all five games in preliminary play. Before the finale against Japan, the USA beat France 70-45, Russia 82-38, Canada 114-57, and Turkey 84-55.

The top four finishing teams from each preliminary round group advance to the medal quarterfinals, scheduled for July 23, the semifinals are slated for July 24 and the gold and bronze medal games will be contested July 25. Game times and the order of games will be determined by FIBA following the conclusion of preliminary round play.

The USA secured Group A's No. 1 seed and will face the No. 4 seed from Group B, which is still to be determined.

"This was a very good way to end preliminary round play," said Imani Stafford (Winward H.S./Los Angeles, Calif.). "We played well as a team, and we all scored, so that was a great thing. We not only executed our game plan, which is what we have been talking about, but we got better."

Nelson is assisted by Mike Armstrong of Perry Meridian High School (Ind.) and Dorena Bingham of Team Alaska AAU.

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