U19 team to play for gold medal

Bratislava, Slovakia - Maya Moore scored 15 of her game-high 24 points, including three 3-pointers, during the third quarter to help the USA Women's U19 World Championship Team (8-0) stretch a comfortable eight point halftime lead into a 69-46 win over Spain (5-3) on Saturday. The victory clinched the USA's berth into Sunday's gold medal contest against Sweden (6-2).

Incoming University of Tennessee basketball freshmen, 6'4 post Vicki Baugh of Sacramento, Calif., and 6'0 guard Angie Bjorklund of Spokane, Wash., both contributed to the victory.

Bjorklund registered seven points and added three rebounds and one steal in 20 minutes of action. Baugh, a starting post, scored eight points and claimed a team high nine rebounds to go along with two blocks, two steals and an assist in 19 minutes on the hardwood.

"We knew exactly what their game was going to be," Baugh said. "After watching two sessions of film and their game yesterday, we knew it was going to be fast-paced, and if they get down, they are never out. I was mentally prepared tonight, and so was the team.

"After playing them three times, we knew what we needed to do. We didn't feel like the first two games should have been close. We came out strong after halftime, because we knew Spain was capable of coming back on us. We couldn't celebrate early, and we needed to put the game out of reach."

Baugh said the team's focus is now on the title game.

"I'm excited about getting to the gold medal game and it feels good, but I don't want to celebrate until we win," Baugh said. "If we play our game and we play as a team, then we can beat anybody."

Bjorklund said, "There was a lot of hype about tonight's game. It was a semifinal game to get to the gold and a rematch with Spain, and we just came out with tons of energy. We started really strong and really took it away in the start of the second half. "

The team feels as if the last month of work can all pay off Sunday.

"We're all really excited," Bjorklund said. "This has been a really long month. We've put in so much time and effort as a team, and the payoff is finally here. We are close to playing to our potential. We're not quite there, but we have one more game, so we will see."

After outscoring Spain 20-14 in the first period and 12-10 in the second, the U.S. lead stood at eight, 32-24 at halftime. The U.S. onslaught began when Monica Wright sank a 3-pointer just 45 seconds in the third quarter to launch an11-4 run that included 3-pointers from both Maya Moore and Jasmine Thomas, and the USA held a 43-28 advantage with 5:28 remaining in the period.

Moore went on to score 12 more points in the period, and the USA never looked back. The score was 55-39 headed into the final stanza, and the USA outscored Spain 14-7 in the fourth period to bring the final tally to 69-46.

"Tonight was indicative of how we are capable of playing," said USA U19 and DePaul head coach Doug Bruno. "These players are improving on defending individually and as a team, and that's huge for us because we feed off of our ability to guard and to rebound.

"Everybody was ready to play tonight, and Maya Moore came up big. She took their best player out of the game and then she took out their second-best player. She's doing all that defensively, and then she had her offense cooking as well."

Moore said, "We really broke down film, came together and decided to play our best basketball against Spain tonight. We just really picked it up on defense and then converted that into our offense. We were hitting shots, and all around we had the most energy we've played with so far.

"Our assistant coach Cynthia Cooper has really helped me see that when my defensive game is high-energy and active that my offense just flows right out of it. I was just really focused on bringing both sides of my game, and my shot was just falling."

In addition to Moore, who also grabbed six rebounds, Vicki Baugh added eight points and nine rebounds; Angie Bjorklund, Allyssa DeHaan and Wright each contributed seven points; and Jasmine Thomas dished four assists to go with six rebounds.

Spain was hindered by ice-cold shooting from the field and the free throw line. They made just 18-of-61 shots from the floor for a dismal 29.5 percent and 9-of-26 from the charity stripe for just 34.6 percent.

Laura Nicholls contributed 11 points and six rebounds for the Spaniards, followed by 10 points from Tamara Abalde.

"It feels awesome to be headed to the gold medal game," DeHaan said. "Now we just have to take care of business and win it out tomorrow. We've been ready, we've been looking forward to this. We're just really excited."

The gold medal game will be contested at 8:15 p.m. local time, which is +6 hours from Eastern Daylight Time.

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