Jul 27, 2010 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
For the second time in as many summers, Cicero-North Syracuse basketball star Breanna Stewart got selected to represent her country — and the end result was a gold medal.
Stewart played with the USA Basketball Under-17 team as the inaugural FIBA Under-17 World Championship in Toulouse, France, and played a crucial role in the team’s undefeated run to a championship, averaging 12.8 points and 7.5 rebounds per game.
The 12-player roster featured standouts from New York, California, North Carolina, Tennessee, Delaware, Illinois and Virginia, all run by head coach Barbara Nelson, who is the coach at Wingate University near Charlotte, N.C.
Prior to the tournament, Team USA played in three exhibitions, routing Canada 93-47 and edging Spain 61-50, but losing 64-58 to Australia in between. From that point forward, the Americans were never in danger of getting caught.
In all, the tournament featured 12 nations, split into a pair of six-team divisions that would play five round-robin games. Four teams from each division would advance into the elimination rounds. The Americans would be the lone undefeated team in round-robin play.
On July 16, Team USA, playing in Group A, opened against
the hosts from France, with more than 2,000 people on hand, the largest crowd any of the visiting players, Stewart included, had ever faced.
It hardly mattered, though, as the Americans rolled to a 70-45 victory with a big second-half spurt as it enjoyed a 47-26 rebounding margin. Stewart led the way on both ends, earning a team-high 13 points to go with seven rebounds and four blocks.
Then Team USA really got on a roll, ripping Russia 82-38 on July 17 as Stewart, in just 13 minutes of court time, racked up 12 points and nine rebounds. A day later, it was a rematch with Canada and a 114-57 blowout that saw all 12 players get on the board, with Stewart contributing eight points, nine rebounds, three blocks and three steals.
Following a day of rest, Team USA resumed its tear on July 20, handling Turkey 84-55 to clinch the top seed in Group A. A 21-4 start set the tone as every player converted at least one field goal and Stewart got 10 points and five rebounds.
Instead of relaxing, Team USA closed out group play on July 21 with the biggest offensive eruption of the tournament, a 133-71 romp over Japan, and it was here that Stewart had her finest effort. She hit on her first six field goals and didn’t let up until she had earned 30 points on 13-of-15 shooting, plus seven rebounds, three assists and three blocks.
Two days later, Team USA hit the quarterfinals against the same Spanish side it faced in exhibition play, this time taking control early and rolling to an 86-57 victory.
Late in the first quarter, the Americans went on a 23-4 run and never got caught in a strong team effort where Stewart had just four points, but many others stepped up as Kaleena Lewis led with 16 points and, again, everyone on the roster contributed at least one basket.
The semifinal last Saturday pitted Team USA against China and was the biggest scare to date. Only up by seven with one quarter to play, the Americans hit another gear and ended up with a 97-74 win to advance to the gold-medal round.
Hot shooting kept China close much of the time, but all that changed in the final period as Team USA held them to just three field goals in 22 attempts. Meanwhile, Stewart resumed her starring role, getting a double-double of 17 points and 11 rebounds, adding five blocks.
So it all came down to Sunday’s championship contest, where, completing the circle, Team USA again met France, again in front of a loud and partisan home crowd — and again conquered the moment, taking the gold medal with a 92-62 victory.
The Americans bolted to a 26-10 advantage by the end of the first quarter, only to have France convert a series of 3-pointers and briefly peak in front 31-30 before a 20-7 run to close the half left Team USA with a 50-38 lead at the break.
Again utilizing its unmatched depth, Team USA stretched out the margin in the second half. Stewart picked up eight points and eight rebounds, with Ariel Massengale getting 20 points as Lewis and Elizabeth Willams got 15 points apiece.
This came on the same day that Stewart’s two teammates at CNS, Brittany Paul and Kelsey Mattice, played for their own title with the Central region scholastic women’s team in the Empire State Games at Niagara University, north of Buffalo.
Central lost to Hudson Valley, but Paul and Mattice still brought home silver medals — just as Stewart was picking up her gold across the Atlantic.