Once again, IUP Women’s Basketball head coach Tom McConnell is bringing home the gold after his USA Women’s U17 National Team took down Spain, 84-62, in this 2022 FIBA Women’s U17 World Cup.
IUP Athletics reports that the game was close through the first quarter, but ended the period on a 9-0 scoring run to lead 24-13.
The U.S. took a 10 point lead into halftime and a 13 point lead into the final quarter, but really poured on the gas during the final minutes in the fourth, taking a 20 point lead to solidify their lead.
McConnell brings gold back to Indiana after helping as an assistant coach. He helped the team win gold last year with the U16 team.
View the full recap from IUP Athletics below:
IUP head women’s basketball coach Tom McConnell is a gold medalist for the second straight summer. As an assistant coach on the USA Women’s U17 National Team, he helped them defeat Spain 84-62 in the 2022 FIBA Women’s U17 World Cup gold medal game on Sunday at Fönix Hall in Debrecen, Hungary.in Leon, Mexico. McConnell also won gold as part of the U16 team at last summer’s FIBA America championship.
The game was closely contested through the first quarter. The U.S. never led by more than six points through the first seven minutes of the game, and with a 15-9 lead with less than three minutes remaining in the opening frame, Spain closed the gap to one possession (15-13) and looked poised to take the lead for the first time.
The Americans responded, separating themselves with a 9-0 run to end the opening quarter with their first double-digit lead of the game (24-13).
Jaloni Cambridge paced the USA through the first quarter, scoring or assisting on 13 of the team’s 24 points. She finished with a team-high 16 points (6-11 FG, 4-4 FT), six rebounds, nine assists and one steal. The All-Star Five honoree saved some of her best play for the final, setting new personal bests for points and assists while setting the pace for the U.S. for the remainder of the game.
The U.S. led by double-figures for the entire second quarter, but Spain’s physical defense allowed them to keep the game within reach. The Spaniards never trailed by more than 13, and the Americans went into halftime with a 10-point lead, their smallest lead through two quarters in any game this week.
The third quarter was very similar to the second, with the USA taking a 13-point lead into the final frame. The red, white and blue would pour it on in the fourth, though, taking their first 20-point lead of the game with three minutes remaining. Once the final buzzer sounded, the team finally rejoiced.
The team came into the tournament with gold in their sights and grew as a team to become a team head coach Sue Phillips could truly appreciate.
“When you think of the growth and development of this team from when we first had them at trials to where they are now…it’s amazing the level of chemistry and the quality of basketball that they were playing,” Phillips said. “It’s a testament to their willingness to learn, testament to setting their egos aside to do what was best for team USA…and really embracing the coaching staff. They’re a terrific group of kids.”
Amongst other players to shine for the U.S. was Breya Cunningham, who was running up her best numbers at the right time. She finished with 10 points, 10 rebounds (9 OR), a single-game best five steals and one block. The double-double was her second of the week, making her the only player on the team to have multiple through the competition.
Juju Watkins finished with nine points to go along with three rebounds, two assists, four steals and a block. Watkins was named MVP to go along with All-Star Five honors, after leading the team in scoring with 13.1 points per game. Though adding more hardware to an already illustrious junior career felt great for Watkins, this experience also gave her another opportunity to showcase her talents on an international stage while making some friends along the way.
“Being in this environment is really great for me,” Watkins said. “I’m just blessed. These amazing girls, everyone got better…it’s just a dream come true, hard work paying off, but I owe it all to the team.”
The team pulled out several calling cards in the gold medal match, things they’ve done all tournament long to come out on top.
Dominating the interior on offense and defense made a major difference, with the U.S. winning the rebounding battle and grabbing 50 rebounds compared to Spain’s 36. Getting offensive boards was another staple of the team and the U.S. dominated in that area of the game, outrebounding Spain 26 to 14. Winning the battle of the paint, with the U.S. outscoring Spain 50-26 in that category, the Americans made it a point all week to take advantage of their length and executed.
Executing the plan was something Phillips emphasized from day one and she let them know how proud she was of their efforts in their preparations.
“This group really bought into this notion of winning basketball games on both sides of the game. As a coach I couldn’t be more proud that we played the game the right way, defended and played some pretty great basketball.”