Recording 22 points and eight rebounds, Aaron Gordon (Archbishop Mitty H.S. / San Jose, Calif.) led the way as the 2011 USA Basketball Men’s U16 (under 16) National Team (4-0) conquered Canada (2-2) 113-70 in medal semifinal action at the FIBA Americas U16 Championship on Friday night at Poliforum Benito Juarez in Cancun, Mexico.
With the victory, the U.S. not only advanced to the gold medal game, in which it will have a rematch with Argentina (3-1), but qualified for the 2012 FIBA U17 World Championship. Argentina defeated Puerto Rico (3-1) 96-90 in the other semifinal and Canada will face Puerto Rico for the bronze medal. The gold medal game will be streamed live online on June 25 at 9:00 p.m. (EDT) at www.fibaamericas.com.
Every healthy member of the U.S. team scored no less than five points apiece and five were in double digits. In addition to Gordon, who also had four assists, three blocked shots and three steals, Jahlil Okafor (Whitney Young H.S. / Chicago, Ill.) had 16 points, Theo Pinson (Oakridge Military Academy / Greensboro, N.C.) netted 15, Justin Jackson (Home School Christian Youth Association / Houston, Texas) notched 14 and Kendrick Nunn (Simeon H.S. / Chicago, Ill.) chipped in 10 points. Further, Tyus Jones (Apple Valley H.S. / Apple Valley, Minn.) and Larry Austin (Lanphier H.S. / Springfield, Ill.) dished out eight and seven of the USA’s 30 assists, respectively.
“We talked about this being a crucial game for us, because it automatically qualifies us for the U17 World Championship,” said USA U16 National Team head coach Don Showalter (Mid-Prairie High School, Iowa). “We respect Canada a lot. They’re coached very well, they’ve always given us good games the last two years. They took third in the world last year at the U17s and we certainly didn’t take them lightly. I thought our kids were really, really focused coming out of the locker room.”
Utilizing its near-perfect pressure defense, the USA ran out to a 10-0 run to start the game and by the time the first quarter expired, the U.S. was on top 31-7. In that span, Gordon, who had been in foul trouble much of the USA’s first three games and did not get whistled for a single infraction tonight, had 14 points.
“We knew there was a lot on the line, this qualified us for the (U17) World Championship,” said Gordon. “We had a lot of energy, we pumped ourselves up in the locker room. We got each other motivated. It was all good teamwork.
The red, white and blue kept Canada at bay with about a 20-point differential throughout most of the second period. With 3:49 to play before the break, however, the USA reeled off nine unanswered points and the lead ballooned to 56-21. By the midway point the U.S. had the game well in hand, 63-38.
The USA eased up in the second half, winning the third quarter 29-16 before cruising in for the eventual win.
“I’ve not played on a team (that plays defense) like this,” said Pinson. “We preach defense in my high school team, but we don’t preach it like this team. We knew we have to win with defense.”