Release courtesy of USA Basketball
The old adage "defense wins championships" was again proven true by the USA women (7-0) in Sunday's FIBA U17 World Cup gold medal game as the American's defense shut down France (6-1) and earned a 92-40 win in Minsk, Belarus.
Since FIBA initiated the U17 competition in 2010, the USA women have now captured the gold medal in four of the five U17 World Cups and have compiled a 36-1 overall record.
For her play throughout the tournament, Jordan Horston (Columbus Africentric Early College/Columbus, Ohio) earned MVP honors and was joined on the FIBA U17 World Cup All-Star Five Team by teammates Aliyah Boston (Worcester Academy/St. Thomas, USVI) and Aliyah Boston (Worcester Academy/St. Thomas, USVI), along with Australia's Shyla Heal and Iliana Rupert of France.
A team victory in every sense, Boston led the USA offense with 16 points and added eight rebounds; Jones added 14 points; Horston filled the stat sheet with 12 points, nine rebounds, seven assists and six steals; while Azzi Fudd (St. John's College H.S., D.C./Arlington, Va.) scored 11 points; Fran Belibi (Regis Jesuit H.S./Centennial, Colo.) accounted for 10 points and seven rebounds; and Paige Bueckers (Hopkins H.S./St. Louis Park, Minn.) added eight points, seven rebounds and a USA U17 single-game tying 10 assists.
"It's been an amazing ride," said USA U17 and Tufts University head coach Carla Berube, who is 12-0 as a USA junior team head coach. "From the team being named in May after trials, they went home for a month and then when they came back in early July, they were ready to go, in shape and excited. Those double sessions in Colorado and our travel to D.C. and Latvia, and then the culmination here in Belarus, it's been amazing. It's been an awesome experience, and I'm so happy to have been able to coach these 12 players."
"It's just amazing," said Horston. "All this hard work that we put in from the beginning of the month, it finally paid off. To know I got it done with these ladies, it's just so great."
France scored first to take its only lead of the game and the USA responded with 16 straight points to grab control 16-2.
Leading 23-12 after the first quarter, the Americans opened the second stanza with a 14-3 scoring run to up its advantage to 37-15. At halftime, with the USA shooting 48.7 percent and holding France to 35.5 percent shooting from the floor, the USA lead stood at 46-28.
"We did a great job in the first half," said Berube. "France was able to make some really tough shots. And then, in the second half, we just clamped down. I think Aliyah Boston did a really great job on Rupert, who is a really great player. We helped her out and got out on shooters, then we got out on the break and made plays. We really shared the ball the way we've been sharing it all tournament."
The USA shut down France's top scorer heading into the game. Rupert, who averaged 12.2 points entering the gold medal game, was held scoreless on 0-for-10 shooting on the night.
France, which overcame a 15 point halftime deficit to defeat defending champ Australia in the semifinals to earn its spot in the gold medal game, was put away when the U.S. opened the third quarter with a 13-2 scoring run that led to the American's lead growing to 70-35 at the end of the third quarter.
"We knew what we needed to do," said Boston. "We came together as a team. We trusted everyone, help defense was there, we closed out and everything else just worked out in our favor."
"Oh, it meant so much," added Jones on winning gold. "We've been together for the last month and we've become a family, so it means so much to us. The coaches have put in so much time, everybody that has been with us this whole time. It was a moment of being grateful for everything and knowing all your hard work paid off."
The USA shot 51.5 percent from the field, while France was limited to icy 24.6 percent shooting. The U.S. women also owned a 60-37 advantage on the glass and committed just 12 turnovers.