(Courtesy USA Basketball) - The 2017 USA Women's U19 World Cup Team (6-1) claimed the silver medal at the 2017 FIBA U19 World Cup after losing a hard-fought, gold-medal game 86-82 to undefeated Russia (7-0) on Sunday night in Udine, Italy. Including its 6-1 record in 2017, USA women's teams are now 79-13 all-time in FIBA U19/Junior World Cups and have captured seven gold medals, one silver medal and one bronze medal.
Canada (6-1) earned the bronze medal, its first of any kind in the history of the event, with a 67-60 victory over Japan (5-2).
While Chennedy Carter (Timberview H.S./Mansfield, Texas) scored a USA U19 single-game record 31 points for the USA, Bella Alarie (Princeton/Bethesda, Md.) grabbed 12 rebounds and Tyasha Harris (South Carolina/Noblesville, Ind.) had nine assists, it was not enough to overcome Russia, which got 33 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists from forward Raisa Musina and 26 points and 18 rebounds from center and tournament MVP Maria Vadeeva.
Carter and Harris were named to the five-member all-tournament team, along with Russia's Musina and Vadeeva and Canada's Laeticia Amihere.
Crystal Dangerfield (Connecticut/Murfreesboro, Tenn.) added 15 points, and Alecia Sutton (Texas/St. Louis, Mo.) contributed 11 points.
"It was just a great game," said USA U19 and University of Pittsburgh head coach Suzie McConnell-Serio. "Russia is really good. They are very talented. They have two great players that made play after play. We tried a number of different things. We played hard. I give our players credit - they played their hearts out. I'm proud of their effort. They never quit."
The game featured 24 lead changes, and the USA's largest lead was only eight points, while Russia's largest lead was six points.
"It was a game of runs. Russia made a run, and we seemed to answer," said McConnell-Serio. "We gave ourselves a chance down the stretch, and we just couldn't convert. It's disappointing. We came here to win the gold. We just missed some layups and free throws that could have been the difference in the game. I'm just proud of the way our players continued to fight the entire game."
It was a quick start for the USA, which went up 9-2 early in the contest and was up by eight, 18-10, after a Harris steal and layup. However, as was the case all game, any time one team started to pull away, the other team responded, and Russia began reeling the score back to close the first quarter with the USA up 22-17.
After three quick scores to open the second period, Russia gained its first edge of the night, 23-22. From there, the score see-sawed and with 2:18 left in the half, Russia regained the lead, 36-34.
Carter, with five points, and Dangerfield, with an and-one, closed out the first half on an 8-0 run, and the red, white and blue headed into the locker room owning a 42-36 margin.
"I thought, in the first half, we were hitting our shots, we were executing and scoring and defending," added McConnell-Serio. "Then, we got in some foul trouble with Ruthy (Hebard), and I think that hurt us, because she has been so solid at both ends of the floor for us throughout this tournament."
Raisa and Vadeeva, both of whom have competed professionally in Europe for the past three seasons and were on the losing end of an equally hard-fought U19 gold medal game against the USA in 2015, combined to score 22 points as Russia outscored the U.S. 26-18 in the third quarter for a 62-60 edge with 10 minutes to play.
"They are great players," said Harris of Russia's top two players. "They took advantage of how we played. They took it to us. We tried to stop them, but they are at a different level being pros than us collegians. We just tried our best with them."
The lead changed sides six times in the fourth quarter, with the USA's final edge coming on a Ruthy Hebard (Oregon/Fairbanks, Alaska) drive to the basket that gave her team a 75-74 lead with 3:23 to play.
"Every time we would get a lead, they would find a way to answer it and go on a run of their own," said Dangerfield, who won a gold medal at the 2015 U19 World Cup. "They played until the last buzzer went off. It was kind of like 2015, just going back and forth, but it was just a different outcome."
Down the stretch it was Russia's turn for the run, and the Europeans shot 3-of-5 from the floor, forced two turnovers by the Americans and hit 6-of-9 from the line as it outscored the U.S. 12-7 over the final 3:08 of the game.
The U.S. never backed down and continued to fight for the win, but with shots not falling (2-7 FGs in the closing minutes), the red, white and blue were unable to retake the lead.
"We are a very close team," said Harris. "We just kept giving confidence to one another and instilling it in one another throughout the game. We tried to stay up for each other even when we were down and in those last few seconds. The ball just didn't bounce in our way. There's nothing we can do about that, but we take it to heart that we played as hard as we could."
Russia outrebounded the USA 48-37 and shot 52.4 percent from the field (33-63 FGs) compared to the USA's 40.2 percent from the field (33-82 FGs). The USA notched 22 points off of 17 Russian turnovers, while Russia got eight points off the USA's six turnovers.
Carter scored her record 31 points by shooting 11-of-18 from the field and 7-of-8 from the charity stripe. The previous record was 30 points, set by A'ja Wilson in the 2015 FIBA U19 World Cup gold medal game against Russia.
"It really doesn't mean anything to me," said Carter when she found out about setting the USA scoring record. "Thirty-one points and a loss is really not important to me. I'm glad, and that's a big deal, but I'd rather have 31 and that gold medal around my neck."
"It was special, especially with her coming off the bench," countered Dangerfield. "We need that. She gave us every little bit that we needed, but we just came up short. But, she was special tonight."
In classification play, France (5-2) edged Australia (4-3) 47-45 to finish in fifth place, China (4-3) defeated Spain (3-4) 74-46 for seventh place, Hungary (4-3) finished in ninth place after a 75-61 win over Latvia (3-4), host Italy (3-4) had no trouble in its 72-54 win over Mexico (1-6) in the 11th place game, Mali (2-5) earned a 61-48 win over Puerto Rico (1-6) and finished in 13th place, and South Korea (1-6) earned its first win of the tournament with a 74-57 victory over Egypt (1-6) for 15th place.
McConnell-Serio was assisted by collegiate head coaches Kamie Ethridge from the University of Northern Colorado and Charlotte Smith from Elon University.
FIBA U19 World Cup for Women
Originally known as the FIBA Junior World Championship, FIBA changed the names of its age-based world championships in 2005 to reflect the age of eligibility, and recently updated the names of all of its world championships to world cups. The tournament was held every four years starting in 1985. FIBA in 2005 modified its calendar and now conducts the U19 World Cup every other year.
Notable players to represent the USA at the FIBA U19 World Championship include: Alana Beard (2001), Essence Carson (2005), Tamika Catchings (1997), Bria Hartley (2011), Crystal Langhorne (2005), Jantel Lavender (2007), Lisa Leslie (1989), Rebecca Lobo (1993), Maya Moore (2007), Nnemkadi Ogwumike (2009), Vickie Orr (1985), Cappie Pondexter (2001), Katie Smith (1993), Dawn Staley (1989), Azurá Stevens (2015), Breanna Stewart (2011 and MVP of the 2013 U19 World Championship), Diana Taurasi (2001), Morgan Tuck (2011 and 2013) and A'ja Wilson (2013 and MVP of the 2015 U19 World Championship).