The USA Women’s U16 National Team (4-0), the FIBA No. 1-ranked youth program in the world, ran away with a 121-12 quarterfinal victory over No. 39-ranked Costa Rica (0-4) at the 2021 FIBA Americas U16 Championship on Friday morning in Leon, Mexico. The win not only advanced the U.S. squad to the medal semifinals, but it also earned USA Basketball a berth to the 2022 FIBA U17 World Cup as the top four finishing teams, all four quarterfinal winners, qualify for next summer’s competition.
Opening on an 8-0 run, and after Costa Rica scored its first bucket, the USA expanded its lead to 21-2 midway through the first period and never looked back.
The U.S. outscored Costa Rica 36-7 in a first quarter that saw the squad from Central America connect on its three, first-half field goals. In the second quarter, after Costa Rica netted a free throw at 8:25 to make the score 42-8, the USA closed the first half on a 24-0 scoring spree.
“I want to commend Costa Rica for its ability to continue to fight and battle, and I really have a ton of respect in the way in which the game never became chippy,” said USA head coach Sue Phillips (Archbishop Mitty H.S., Calif.). “There was a wonderful exchange after the game between the players and the coaches in which sportsmanship and a level of appreciation of each other was shown. We’re in different places in our basketball journeys, in terms of where their program is and where ours is. Today, Costa Rica continued on its own path to try to get better. It was neat to experience that level of sportsmanship, and I was really touched by their kind words and well wishes.”
All 10 available players were on the scoreboard by halftime and finished with a balanced effort that saw everyone score between seven and 18 points.
“I thought it was great that we had six players in double figures and everyone else was one field goal away from being in double figures,” Phillips added. “And minutes-wise, we’re all around 20 minutes. So, I like the way the kids are getting that game experience and we’re also monitoring the mileage on their legs. It’s neat that the player of the game has been different every game, which has been really special as a coach to see.”
Maggie Mendelson (Fremont H.S./North Ogden, Utah) shot 9-of-16 from the field and finished with a game-high 18 points to go with eight rebounds. Her nine made field goals tied a USA U16 single-game record, which was accomplished seven times by six prior USA U16 athletes.
JuJu Watkins (Sierra Canyon High School/Los Angeles, Calif.) scored 17 points, grabbed eight boards, dished out seven assists and had five steals; Jadyn Donovan (Sidwell Friends School, D.C./Upper Marlboro, Md.) hit 7-of-8 from the field and notched a double-double with 16 points, a game-high 10 rebounds and four steals; Grace Slaughter (Grain Valley H.S./Grain Valley, Mo.) contributed 14 points; Breya Cunningham (La Jolla Country Day School/Chula Vista, Calif.) scored 12 points; and Olivia Olson (Benilde-St. Margaret’s/New Hope, Minn.) chipped in 11 points and seven rebounds. Jada Williams (La Jolla Country Day/San Diego, Calif.), who scored nine points, tied Watkins with a game-high seven assists.
“If I was the other teams, I would be worried because you can’t guard 10 people,” said Donovan about how teams in the medal round will have difficulty scouting the balanced U.S. roster, which has seven players averaging double digits in points through four games. “You have to figure out a way to guard 12 different people because each person on our team can score 10 or more points a game. So, it’s a good thing for us.”