U19 USA team takes gold in Chile

PUERTO MONTT, Chile - Everything came together at the right time for the 2011 USA Basketball Women's U19 World Championship Team (7-1) and it wasted no time in jumping out to a 25-15 lead and rolling to a 69-46 victory over Spain (5-3) to earn the 2011 FIBA U19 World Championship gold medal on Sunday night in Puerto Montt, Chile.

Incoming Lady Vol freshman guard Ariel Massengale of Bolingbrook, Ill., was named to the five-member All-FIBA U19 World Championship Team.

Massengale scored 10 points and passed out seven assists in the gold medal game. Her seven helpers upped her total to 39 for the tournament en route to breaking the USA U19 assist record of 34 previously held by Sam Prahalis with 34 in 2009.

"That was my role on the team, to push the tempo," said Massengale. "Coach said that every time I got in the lane it made a lot of things easier for my teammates. I was just glad they were there catching and finishing.

"I want to give credit to Spain. They played a great game tonight," said Massengale. "I'm just grateful of how my teammates came out to play. We were really focused tonight. We've been on this journey for three weeks and all of it paid off tonight in the gold medal game. We had a great coaching staff to top it all off."

The U.S., which also defeated Spain in the 2009 U19 gold medal game, has now won four consecutive U19 golds.

Brazil (7-2) took the bronze medal, its first ever at the U19 Worlds, with a narrow 70-67 defeat of Australia (6-3), which hasn't medaled at the event since 1997.

This marks the second world championship gold medal for seven of the USA's players including Massengale and fellow Lady Vol frosh Cierra Burdick of Matthews, N.C., who were also on the 2010 USA squad that captured the inaugural FIBA U17 World Championship gold medal last summer in France. In Sunday's gold medal game versus Spain, Burdick grabbed five rebounds and dished four assists to her USA teammates.

"Words can't describe the feeling of winning," said Burdick. "Just an ultimate feeling to now have three gold medals and only be 17 years old."

The USA is now 57-12 all-time in U19/Junior World Championship play, and has posted a remarkable 45-4 mark since 1997. After finishing no higher than fifth in the first three junior worlds, the American women have medaled in each of the last six tournaments, including winning five golds (1997, 2005, 2007, 2009 and 2011) and one bronze medal (2001). This marks the second medal for Spain in U19 play as it previously earned its first silver medal in the 2009 FIBA U19 World Championship.

"I'm very excited to be standing up here as the gold medal winner," said Jennifer Rizzotti, USA U19 World Championship Team head coach. "I don't think I realized it until I arrived here and saw our competition, how difficult this tournament would be to win.

"Our play early in the tournament was inconsistent and we had to rely so much on individual talent. We didn't play as a team. But, I'm very happy to see that after these three weeks, our team was able to come together and play its best basketball in the final two games.

"I feel like we learned a lot from all of the teams here, especially a team like Spain, who out of everybody here plays the best team basketball at both ends of the court. We learned a lot from Brazil, who plays with more passion than any other team here. We just need to put all of that together, the team basketball that Spain plays and the passion like Brazil plays and I thought that our team was able to do that tonight. That's why we won the gold medal."

The opening minutes saw three lead changes before the USA outscored the Europeans 14-3, including five points from the line and a layup, and with 31 seconds left in the first quarter the Americans led 25-12. Spain hit its third trey of the quarter to cut it back down to 10 points at the first break.

Spain made some adjustments, but was unable to slow the tempo in the second quarter and unlike the first quarter when the squad drove in and kicked back out, the U.S. fed it inside. The post players combined for 10 points as the red, white and blue upped its lead to 35-19 with 2:35 to play before halftime. By the midway point, the score was 37-22.

The U.S. steadily increased its lead, outscoring Spain 19-14 and with 10 minutes to go before gold, owned a 20-point, 56-36 upperhand and cruised through the fourth quarter before being able to collect their gold medals.

The USA's team play produced 21 assists on 25 field goals and outrebounded Spain by a slim 47-42 margin. The USA shot just 39.7 percent shooting (25-63 FTs) from the field, but held Spain to 28.8 percent (19-66 FGs) shooting from the field.

Burdick and Massengale will have a couple of weeks at home before starting classes at the University of Tennessee on August 17.

"Ariel and I have become best friends and we're going to be roomies for the next four years," said Burdick.

"It's good to have a good chemistry with her both on and off the floor. We've really connected and bonded on the floor, too. We know what each other is going to do on the court."

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