Aug. 26, 2012
ATHENS (Courtesy USA Basketball) - Current University of Connecticut women's basketball star Bria Hartley, former standout Ann Strother and the 2012 USA Women's 3x3 World Championship Team (9-0) went undefeated in capturing the inaugural FIBA 3x3 World Championship for Women on Sunday night in Athens, Greece.
Defeating Australia (8-1) 19-18 in the semifinals, the U.S. came from behind to capture gold with a 17-16 victory over France (8-1) in the gold medal game. Australia edged Ukraine (6-3) 18-17 in the bronze medal game. Teaming up with Strother and Hartley were Notre Dame's Skylar Diggins and Stanford's Chiney Ogwumike.
Falling behind France 7-2 early on Sunday, the USA fought back with gritty defense and tough teamwork to claim the lead, 10-9, with less than five minutes to play in the 10-minute game.
"It feels good, Hartley said. "The feeling doesn't change. The 3x3 is new to me, and new to a lot of us, to come out here and win that, especially in that game, it was really close and a tough game coming back from down 7-2. I think it was all about pride. I remember being on the court and being like, `Guys, we've got to win this,' and we turned it around."
However, France put together a 4-0 run and was back in front 13-10 at 3:51. Not ready to capitulate, the U.S. put together a 5-0 run that was jump-started with a Diggins free throw at 3:22. Bria Hartley (University of Connecticut / North Babylon, N.Y.) tied the contest 13-all with a 2-pointer at 3:01 and hit the USA's next two buckets and with 1:55 to play, the Americans owned a 15-13 edge.
"I think we knew we had to buckle down, and we looked each other in the eye and said, `Let's go, let's turn this around, let's step up defensively,'" said Hartley. "That's what we did and we picked it up on offense as well."
The teams swapped baskets and with nine seconds remaining, Ogwumike got a feed inside from Hartley to put the U.S. back up by two, 17-15.
In an attempt to keep France from scoring, Hartley fouled her French counterpart and it was deemed an intentional foul. France hit the free throw for what was to be the final point of the game and got the ball back with two seconds on the clock. However, the USA's defense kept France from getting a good look at the basket and the buzzer sounded with the U.S. in possession of the gold medal.
"I think that this is the first-ever 3x3 World Championship," Hartley said. "To be the first-ever world champions, not only for the USA, but the first-ever for any country, I think says a lot and is something to remember as you get old."