Aug. 2, 2003
SIBENIK, Croatia) -- Shawntinice Polk (Arizona / Hanford, Calif.) contributed a game high 15 points, 11 coming in a 5:27 span to start the second quarter, as the USA Young Women's National Team (6-1) advanced to the championship game of the 2003 FIBA World Championship for Young Women after defeating France (5-2) 58-47 on Saturday evening in Sibenik, Croatia. The United States will meet up with Brazil (6-1) in Sunday night's gold medal game (3:00 p.m. EDT). Brazil edged host Croatia (3-4) 73-65, setting up a Croatia-France bronze medal game. The USA's lone loss at the World Championship For Young Women was to Brazil, 73-60, on July 27.
"We knew from the outset that it was going to be physical game," said USA and Ohio State University head coach Jim Foster. "It was sort of a test of will and we had a lot of people do some good things for us. And the end result is that we had enough good things done to win it. Polkey (Shawntinice Polk) did a great job in the lane, she had great hands, rebounded the ball and in the second half she did a much better job defensively. I thought that (Kendra) Wecker (Kansas State / Clay Center, Kan.) came in and really gave us a boost. She got a lot of loose balls and played with a lot of energy. Tanisha Wright (Penn State / West Mifflin, Pa.) did some good things. The good thing about this team from the beginning is that we haven't had to depend on one individual. It's been a collective effort and it seems to be different people stepping up every night."
The first half was all about spurts. After a France jumper at 9:22, the United States took off on a 12-0 run behind six points from Alana Beard (Duke / Shreveport, La.), who had a hand in another basket after dishing off to Polk at 5:34 to end the run. After both teams scored another two points, France scored the game's next eight points and the first quarter ended with the USA up 14-12.
Polk put on an offensive clinic to start the second quarter, accounting for all of the USA's points in an 11-2 run and at 4:33 the U.S. held a 25-14 upper hand. It was France's turn next as the USA's shooting went cold and the French took off on a 15-0 tear that ended with 35 seconds remaining. Lindsay Whalen (Minnesota / Hutchinson, Minn.) scored a driving layup with four seconds to go and the U.S. found itself trailing 29-27 at halftime.
"It wasn't really the Polkey show, it was the USA show," said Polk. "The team really got me pumped up today. It's getting close to the gold medal game and this is the game we needed to win to get into the gold medal game. Everybody really wanted it bad and the team really pumped me up. We got it into our heads that we were going to win this game, play tough. We knew how physical France was and we knew that if we went out as a team then good things will happen. Our defense made our offense tonight."
Allowing just two French field goals in the third quarter, the USA's defense spurred its offense and at the end of 30 minutes of play the U.S. held a 45-34 advantage. During the third quarter 18-5 surge Seimone Augustus (Louisiana State / Baton Rouge, La.) and Cappie Pondexter (Rutgers / Chicago, Ill.) accounted for eight and six points, respectively.
After a Polk put back, France cut the lead to six, 47-41, with 6:19 remaining in the game. With 4:48 left on the clock Pondexter was sent to the line and swooshed both tries. After a Wecker steal, Pondexter found Augustus inside and with 4:16 to play the USA was back in front by 10, 51-41. But France responded with a 3-pointer at 3:22 to close to 51-44. After misses on both ends of the court, Pondexter nailed a three as time expired on the shot clock and the USA's lead was again 10 points. France, which had been playing tight defensively all game, stepped up its defensive intensity, while attempting a barrage of 3-pointers, but the USA's defense also picked up and allowed just one more French three as the United States earned the hard-fought victory.
In addition to Polk's 15-point effort, she also grabbed a team high seven rebounds. Pondexter scored 14 and Augustus added 10 points, while Wecker was credited for four steals.
In a tough defensive battle on both ends of the court, the U.S. shot 35.4 percent (23-65 FGs) from the field, its lowest of the tournament. However, France was limited to 28.6 percent (18-63 FGs) on the night, including just 18.2 percent from 3-point (6-33 3pt FGs). The USA also won the battle of the boards, 39-29, and forced 15 turnovers.
Foster is being assisted by collegiate head coaches Kathy Delaney-Smith of Harvard University (Mass.) and Felisha Legette-Jack of Hofstra University (N.Y.).
In consolation play, the Czech Republic (3-4) finished in ninth place after defeating Argentina (2-5) 75-53, while South Korea (1-6) bested Tunisia (0-7) 63-47 for 11th place. Australia (5-2) downed China (2-5) 73-68 to advance to the 5th-6th place game against Russia (4-3), which was victorious over Latvia (5-2) 68-60. China and Latvia will play in the 7th-8th place game.
JIM FOSTER, USA and Ohio State University head coach
On playing Brazil in the gold medal game:
Brazil is as big and physical a team as I've seen in years. The big kid (Erika de Sousa) played in the WNBA, she's a mature woman and has great hands. They're very athletic, a fundamentally sound basketball team.
SEIMONE AUGUSTUS, Louisiana State University
On advancing to the gold medal game:
"It feels great, knowing that we've come this far. Adjusting to our mistakes after the loss and then to come out tonight and beat a good French team by double digits feels real good."
On the defensive lapses in the first half:
"I think we weren't communicating enough defensively, offensively we weren't executing well. We were getting to our spots, getting to where we needed to go, but we weren't really getting good shots.
CAPPIE PONDEXTER, Rutgers University
Does this feel better than it did two years ago when you lost the 2001 Junior World Championship semifinal game?
"Yes! We have the chance to win the gold. I told everybody at halftime that the game's not over, that we could easily win. I felt real good about us winning, I really wanted it. Two years ago we didn't get a chance to win the gold medal, but now we have that chance. We came here for a World Championship and that's what we want to do."
Shawntinice Polk, University of Arizona
On tonight's game:
"I think a lot of us stepped it up tonight. France was our first game after we got here, we hadn't seen them yet and we didn't ever really get in our rhythm and as things went on, we got better and better. To win this game, to make it to the gold medal game, everyone stepped it up."
How does it feel to be in the gold medal game?
"It's great. We want to go out and get a win tomorrow, that's all we're thinking about right now."
KENDRA WECKER, Kansas State University
How does it feel to be playing for the gold medal?
"It feels great. We've only been together for a month and to come out and accomplish this, to get into the gold medal game, is awesome. We've been taking it game by game and this is what we came here for - to play in the championship game."
TANISHA WRIGHT, Penn State University
On being in the gold medal game:
"Coach Foster has been comparing this to being in the national championship, but better. If that's the way the international world sees it, it gives me a good feeling to be here, being in the gold medal game.
On tonight's game:
"It was a fun game. It was a fun game to be in, a fun game to cheer for. All around, with them coming back and then us coming back, them coming back again and then us coming back and trying to hang onto the lead. It was just a real fun to be in and win.
On Shawntinice Polk's game: "Oh she was great. She was getting aggressive, taking it straight to them and getting some easy buckets. She did great."