June 28, 2010
STORRS, Conn. - Incoming Univeristy of Connecticut women's basketball freshmen Bria Hartley (North Babylon, N.Y.) and Stefani Dolson (Port Jervis, N.Y.) were both members of the 2010 U18 USA National Team that won the gold medal at the 2010 FIBA Americas U18 Championship from June 23-27 at the U.S. Olympic Training Center. The USA won the gold medal by defeating Brazil 81-38 in the FIBA title game.
Hartley registered 11 points, four assists and four steals in 21 minutes of play against Brazil, while Dolson added two points, four rebounds and three blocked shots in 15 minutes. The USA U18 team earned its way to the championship game after defeating Argentina (91-32), Puerto Rico (108-44), Chile (98-28) and Brazil (89-46). The group finished the week 5-0.
The USA finished 5-0 in the tournament and won its fourth straight gold medal against the top 18-and-under international competition in the FIBA Americas zone, including Central, North and South America.
"I was nervous going into this process, and I know, looking back now at our margin of victory, that maybe I shouldn't have been as nervous," said Jennifer Rizzotti, USA and University of Hartford head coach. "But you want this team to meet the expectations of the accomplishments of teams in the past, and you want this team to measure up as one of the greats to ever play at U18. So, yeah, those were high. But after three weeks of being here and working hard, this team improved at a very rapid rate, and I was very proud at what it turned out to be."
The victory over Brazil caps a tournament in which the USA flourished from the start. In winning five straight games, the USA outscored its opponents, 467-188, for an average margin of victory of 55.8 points - by far a tournament best.
"This feels great. It's everything we've all been working toward. We earned it. We finally got a gold medal," said Hartley. "I definitely learned a lot from Coach Rizzotti and the whole staff. And then I got to know a bunch of new teammates. I just had a great experience."
The USA led the Championship in 11 different statistical categories, including scoring offense (93.4 ppg.), field goal percentage (.486), rebounding margin per game (plus-33.2) and assists per game (20.4). Further, seven of the tournament's top 10 leaders in field goal percentage were U.S. players.
"Sometimes at a young age, I think you rely so much on individual talent. And this group really came together," said Rizzotti, who also won a gold medal as an assistant coach on the 2006 USA Women's U18 National Team. "And I think we were much better because we learned to play as a team."
Hartley ranked No. 8 in the tournament in scoring with 10.6 points per game.
"I definitely got better," said Dolson. "I think we can all agree that we all got better in the three weeks that we've been here. I know for myself, I've gotten more patient wating for open shots and stuff like that, finding a better shot, and we've all just grown so close to each other. So, I think we've all gotten a lot better."
The gold medal is the USA's fourth straight in the FIBA Americas U18 Championship, going back to 2000, when it was still known as the FIBA Americas Junior World Championship Qualifier. Since the USA first began competing in the tournament in 1988, it has amassed a 38-2 record in tournament games and has won gold medals in 1988, 2000, 2004, 2006, 2008 and 2010.
Also, as one of the top four finishing teams in this year's FIBA Americas U18 Championship for Women, the USA earned a berth in the 2011 FIBA U19 World Championships next summer in Chile.
Brazil, the runner-up, also qualified, as did Canada, which beat Chile 81-42 for third place. Since Chile, which finished fourth, was among the tournament's top four finishers but automatically qualified for next year's U19 Worlds as the host country, the fourth qualifying berth went to Argentina, which defeated Mexico, 64-51, for fifth place.