July 23, 2023
Team USA claims U19 World Cup title in final possession thriller
McMahon's spinning layup caps off Team USA's 3rd U19 title in a row
MADRID, Spain — If you think the U.S. waltzed to another gold medal in the FIBA U19 World Cup, it was anything but that.
A record crowd of more than 7,000 that mostly waved the host country’s red-and-yellow flags propelled the Spanish team from the opening tip to the final whistle. But Cotie McMahon‘s spinning layup in traffic with 21 seconds left was the difference in the 69-66 victory for Team USA, which won its third consecutive U19 World Cup championship and 10th overall title in the every-other-year event.
The Americans built an early 10-point lead, but Spain climbed all the way back and even took a one-point lead in the first half before the teams went into the break tied at 34. The game continued to be tight down the stretch, including being tied up at 66 with 44 seconds left.
That’s when McMahon, who is a rising sophomore at Ohio State, made her biggest mark yet. She caught the ball with 25 seconds, drove into the lane, spun and made the layup through two defenders to put the USA back on top with 21.3 on the clock to break a tie game.
Soon-to-be Notre Dame freshman Hannah Hidalgo then stole the ball on the next Spain possession to prevent a game-tying look. Spain quickly fouled UCLA rising sophomore Kiki Rice, who made the first free throw but missed the second. Spain grabbed the rebound for one last chance to tie the game with a three but couldn’t convert the desperation 3-pointer.
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It’s the third time the U.S. has beaten Spain in the U19 World Cup title game (2009, 2011), but this year, it was a Spanish player taking home the tournament’s Most Valuable Player award. 17-year-old Iyana Martin Carrion of Spain averaged 16.1 points, 3.3 assists and 2.6 steals per game, including scoring 19 points against the U.S. in the final. She’s the first Spanish player to win U19 World Cup MVP since Marta Xargay did so in 2009.
The U.S. didn’t send a single player into the top 18 of the tournament’s scoring leaders, though Hidalgo and Joyce Edwards, a rising senior at Camden (South Carolina) High School who is not yet committed to a college, were named to the tournament’s All-Star Five. The balanced attack is something that head coach Joni Taylor has stressed since training camp began — and, given that many have previously played on younger USA Basketball teams, for years before.
“We tell them ‘Bring yourself, bring your ego, bring your game to USA Basketball, but then put it under one umbrella and play for what’s across your chest.’ They’ve done that really well,” said Taylor, the head coach at Texas A&M. “We’ve had so many different people lead us in scoring, lead us in rebounding, take big shots, nobody cares who gets the credit. At the end of the day, it’s about representing your country well, and that group understands that, and they do it at a high level.”
Taylor also expressed her joy in seeing all of the young girls as part of the 7,000 in attendance. She said they are the future of the sport, not only in Spain and the U.S., but all over the world.
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Captain McMahon is first to lift trophy
McMahon paced the USA with 16 points in the final on 8-of-10 shooting, culminating with her winning shot. The thing that impressed Taylor the most were the intangibles, many of which she already displayed in a stellar freshman year for the Buckeyes.
“I think her leadership is tremendous,” Taylor said of McMahon. “You talk about somebody who is explosive and fun to watch. She has stepped up in her leadership role in terms of being the right voice and knowing what the team needs. She doesn’t care how many points she gets when the ball is in her hands. She goes up and gets rebounds, she runs the floor and defends at a high level. She was the Big Ten Freshman of the Year and could have come here and brought that ego with her, and she didn’t. She is somebody who is our leader on and off the court.”
Taylor also coached McMahon to the gold medal at the Under-18 FIBA Americas Championship in Buenos Aires, Argentina, last year.
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Around the U19 World Cup
Canada defeated France, 80-73 in OT, for the bronze medal. Syla Swords led the Canadians with 26 points, and she is committed to play for Michigan in 2024. It was the nation’s second bronze medal in the event, with a previous coming in 2017. 2024 Duke commit Toby Fournier was selected to the All-Star Five after averaging 16 points and 13.7 rebounds.
The All-Star Five also included Leila Lacan of France. She scored 17 per game and recorded 36 in her team’s overtime quarterfinal win over Japan. Despite only being 19 years old, Lacan played for the senior French national team at last month’s EuroBasket and plays professionally for Angers.
“She is an excellent rebounder,” Taylor said of Lacan. “She is relentless any time she is rebounding the basketball, so we were on high alert every time she was on the floor, trying our best to box her out. She still got her hands on a few, but I thought we did a pretty good job of keeping her quiet on the boards.”
Jana El Alfy, the 6’5 Egyptian center who joined UConn in the middle of last season and redshirted, led the event with 21.4 points per game, scoring a tournament-high 39 against Chinese Taipei.
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Written by Scott Mammoser
Scott Mammoser started out covering the Niagara University women's basketball team in 2002. He went on to cover FIBA World Cups in Turkey and Spain, Under-19 World Cups in Thailand and Spain, the Asia Cup in China, as well as major international events for World Athletics and the International Skating Union. He has been to six Olympics and traveled to more than 80 countries.