June 24, 2024 

How Team USA stormed to another Under-18 AmeriCup title

'It was a tremendous experience. It’s a memory we’ll cherish for the rest of our lives'

The Women’s Under-18 AmeriCup has occurred 11 times this century, and Team USA has won all 11 of them. The U.S. defeated Canada, 80-69, for the gold medal on Sunday, in Bucaramanga, Colombia, to improve to 11-0 all-time against the Canadians in Women’s Under-18 events.

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“It’s been an interesting two weeks,” USA head coach Teri Moren told The Next. “We’re a little different than the rest of the international countries because we only have a week to prepare. It’s a short time we have to prepare with these players, and to win a gold medal is pretty incredible. Everybody has to make sacrifices, and everybody needs to star in the role, and this group did that. The chemistry was great, on and off the floor, and that really showed. I had a terrific staff with Niele Ivey and Jose Fernandez. It was a tremendous experience. It’s a memory we’ll cherish for the rest of our lives.”

Joyce Edwards, from Camden, S.C., recorded 16 points, 13 rebounds, and five steals in the championship game win over Canada. Photo courtesy of USA Basketball.

Edwards named MVP

Highly-recruited Joyce Edwards was declared the MVP of the tournament, scoring more than 14 points and grabbing seven rebounds. The incoming South Carolina Gamecock can add this gold medal to the one she captured at the Under-19 World Cup in Spain last summer. There, she averaged 12.6 points and six rebounds en route to being named to the All-Star Five. Moren was an assistant coach to Joni Taylor of Texas A&M at the time.

“She is going to be an outstanding collegiate player at South Carolina,” Moren praised. “She is very serious about her craft and how she shows up and her focus. She is a great leader. For a lot of these kids, it was their first international experience, so I kind of leaned on her. I allowed her to lead. The seriousness with which she approaches everything she does is pretty incredible for somebody her age.”

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Sienna Betts also found All-Star Five honors, averaging 13 points and eight rebounds. The Colorado high school senior is scheduled to join her sister Lauren at UCLA in 2025. Jasmine Bascoe (Canada), Ayla McDowell (Brazil) and Nerea Lagowski (Argentina) were also in the All-Star Five.

Kayleigh Heckel (12.8 points per game) and Jasmine Davidson (11.3) were the other Americans to score in double figures. The gold medal roster included: Jordan Lee, Kennedy Smith, Alivia McGill, Zakiyah Johnson, Sarah Strong, Arianna Roberson, Leah Macy, and Madison Francis. Strong, who is going to UConn in the fall, won the gold medal at the 2023 FIBA 3×3 Under-18 World Cup in Hungary.

Canada came close

Coach Moren was quick to point out that Canada entered the gold medal game with a purpose. She said Canada was knocking down every shot it took. Then, her team needed to switch it up defensively in the second half. Despite the close final, Team USA pulverized its earlier opponents, with a scoring margin of 67 points. Its scores over Puerto Rico (102-22), Mexico (115-20), the Dominican Republic (125-27), and Argentina (109-32) read as if they are from another sport. Still, she emphasized that Team USA always respects its opponents and that it will be facing its opponents best effort each time it steps on the floor.

“For us we were so superior defensively, with our athleticism,” Moren said. “I think that’s what set us apart. The first five games we were so dominant. We were so committed to being disruptive and understanding our offense is going to come from our defense. What I appreciated is that these are the best of the best. (These players are accustomed to) starting and playing a bunch of minutes. What we were able to do in the first five games is really play the balance, and that was great because you want everyone to have a great experience.”

When the games become out of hand, Coach Moren noted that she and her staff created alternate goals within the game, such as going several minutes without a turnover.

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“We tried to treat it like they were our own teams,” Moren added. “We had game goals, and we tried to adjust them at halftime, especially some of those games that were we leading by a lot. Then we don’t play the scoreboard any longer, it’s about how we can become better. Can we execute at a higher level? Can we get a shutout? And can we only allow so many points? Can our free throw percentage go up in the second half? It was always challenging them. It became us against us, in terms of being a better basketball team, trying not to create bad habits and stay disciplined.”

The event also serves as a transition for many of the players from high school to college. For instance, high school practices may not include watching film of the opponents.

“We wanted to create an experience that they were going to walk into at their respective institutions,” added Moren, who coaches the Indiana Hoosiers.

Besides the U.S. and Canada, bronze medalist Argentina and fourth-place Brazil qualified for the 2025 Under-19 World Cup in Czechia.

California here you come ☀️

Can’t decide what to do this sunny season? How about an all-expenses paid weekend trip for two to LA to watch both the LA Sparks and Angel City FC next month? Problem solved.

Complete with sweet swag from our friends at Birdies, take in some WNBA action in premium seats when the LA Sparks host the two-time defending champion Las Vegas Aces on July 5th. 

  • Then catch Angel City vs. the reigning NWSL champs, Gotham FC, on July 6th in style before the Olympic break. In addition to two premium tickets which include warm up field passes, the winners will also walk away with jerseys.

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Written by Scott Mammoser

Scott Mammoser has covered major international events for FIBA, World Athletics and the International Skating Union. He has been to six Olympics and traveled to more than 90 countries.

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