It took some doing, but USA Basketball is bringing more gold back stateside.
After the United States Under-17 National Team won gold at the FIBA World Championship earlier this month, the U18 team followed suit on Saturday evening, capturing gold at the FIBA Americas Championship with a 99-84 win over Canada in Valdivia, Chile.
Incoming Washington freshman Markelle Fultz was named tournament MVP after leading five players in double-figured with a team-high 23 points on 10-for-16 shooting to go along with five assists and five rebounds for the United States, which finished the tournament a perfect 5-0. Consensus five-star recruit P.J. Washington added 19 on 7-for-8 shooting in the win.
Michael Porter Jr. (Father Tolton Catholic H.S./Columbia, Mo.), added 15 points and grabbed eight rebounds; Hamidou Diallo (Putnam Science Academy/Corona, N.Y.), contributed 14 points; and Jarrett Allen (St. Stephen’s Episcopal School/Round Rock, Texas), had 10 points and eight rebounds.
“Canada played a really good game,” said USA U18 and University of Texas head coach Shaka Smart. “They shot the ball well from outside, particularly (Nickeil) Walker. I think our guys did a good job of keeping their composure. There were a couple times when we got up, and we let down a little bit. But then Canada made runs, our guys kept composure and made good plays.”
The United States average margin of victory through its first four games at FIBA Americas was a gaudy 34.3 points, but it needed a 27-19 third quarter to gain separation, then needed to fend off a game Canadian squad in the fourth.
Canada sliced its deficit to two at 84-82 with 3:49 to play, but a combined seven points from Fultz and Porter Jr. restored order. Porter Jr., the team’s leading scorer over five games, capped a strong tournament by going for 15 points, eight rebounds and four assists.
Canada’s run to the gold medal game was accomplished with the help of multiple Division I talents, but maybe not the widely-known commodities of the U17 team, which featured Rowan Barrett Jr., Andrew Nembhard and Simi Shittu.
Virginia Tech commit Nickeil Alexander-Walker paced Canada with a team-high 25 points on Saturday night after averaging a team-best 17.4 points over the Canadians’ first four games.
The Americans’ historical dominance at the U18 level continued as it moved to 53-2 all-time at FIBA Americas with the win. They have now won four consecutive gold medals and are unbeaten at the event dating back to a loss to Argentina in the gold medal game in 2008.
All four FIBA Americas semifinalists, the United States, Canada, Brazil and Puerto Rico, qualified for the FIBA U19 World Championship next summer in Egypt. The United States is the two-time defending world champion at the U19 level.