Team USA was able to put together an impressive comeback on Sunday in Argentina to avoid its first lost ever in FIBA Americas U16 championship play, instead improving its all-time tournament record to a perfect 20-0 as well as winning its 4th gold medal in the tourney in as many tries.
Fighting back from a 20-point second quarter deficit, the 2015 USA Basketball Men’s U16 National Team (5-0) earned a hard-fought 77-60 victory over Canada (4-1) to earn the FIBA Americas Championship gold medal on Sunday night in Bahía Blanca, Argentina. The gold medal marked the fourth gold in as many editions of the U16 tournament, and the USA now owns a perfect 20-0 record overall in U16 play since the biennial tournament launched in 2009.
Gary Trent Jr. (Apple Valley H.S./Apple Valley, Minn.) scored all 19 points of his points in the second half and earned tournament MVP honors. Tied as the USA’s scoring leader on the night was Jarred Vanderbilt(Victory Prep School/Houston, Texas), who had 10 of the team’s first-half points and finished with 19 points and 10 rebounds. Wendell Carter Jr. (Pace Academy/Fairburn, Ga.) posted a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds. Tre Jones (Apple Valley H.S./Appel Valley, Minn.) had five steals and finished the tournament with a USA U16 competition record 19 steals, breaking Malik Newman’s record of 14 set in 2013.
Also setting USA U16 competition records were Jalen Hill (Corona Centennial H.S./Corona, Calif.), who connected on 88.2 percent (15-17 FGs) of his shots to surpass the record of 71.1 percent set by Jahlil Okafor in 2011. Markus Howard (Findlay Prep, Nev./Chandler, Ariz.) shot 48.4 percent (15-31 3pt FGs) to set a new mark for USA 3-point percentage, formerly owned by Adonis Thomas, who shot 46.2 percent (6-13 3pt FGs) in 2009.
“I think in the first half we were a little too loose with the basketball and had some turnovers,” said USA head coach Don Showalter (Iowa City H.S., Iowa), who now owns a 43-0 record and has led U.S. teams to seven gold medals since 2009 as head coach of the USA Junior National Team (U16 and U17). “We weren’t very aggressive on the boards. They pretty much dominated us on the boards in the first half. And when you play like that, your shooting percentage isn’t very good. You’re only getting one shot and they were making their shots that first quarter. It kind of woke our players up a little bit. As the game went on we showed what we’re really made of.
“I give Canada a lot of credit,” continued Showalter. “They had a great game plan. They weren’t going to let us get a lot of second shots. They were going to make us take shots that we really didn’t want to take.”
The silver medal marked Canada’s best finish at the event as it previously won bronze medals in 2009, 2011 and 2013. Argentina (3-2), which won silver medals in the past three events, finished with the bronze medal after defeating Dominican Republic (2-3) 74-59.