Hoffman Helps U.S.A Advance To Gold Medal Game

July 22, 2002

RIBEIR�O PRETO, Brazil -- USC junior forward Ebony Hoffman helped lead seven players in double digits as the 2002 USA Basketball World Championship For Young Women Qualifying Team (3-0) defeated Puerto Rico (2-2), 123-50, on Saturday, July 20, in the semifinal game of the inaugural Confederation of Pan American Basketball Associations (COPABA) World Championship For Young Women Qualifying Tournament on Saturday, July 20.

'I thought it was a very good win for us,' said Hoffman who finished with 14 points and 10 rebounds. 'Even though the score didn't really show it, it was a little lopsided. But we tried to go out there and play hard, regardless of the score. We wanted to set a few records, but in the second half they stopped a few things we did well in the first.'

Played at the COC University gymnasium in Ribeirao Preto, Brazil on Saturday night, the win advances the USA to the gold medal game against also unbeaten Brazil (4-0). More importantly, USA Basketball has now qualified for one of the three Americas Zone berths in the 2003 World Championship For Young Women. Argentina, which fell to Brazil 75-55 in the second semifinal game, will take on Puerto Rico for the bronze medal at noon (all times local) on Sunday, July 21, while the gold medal will be contested at 2:15 p.m.

'I think the most important thing, when we came out here was to make sure this country qualified for Croatia and the World Championship For Young Women next summer,' said USA and Texas Tech University head coach Marsha Sharp. 'That was the target the whole time and we were able to do that tonight. That takes some pressure off as far what we needed to have happen in the tournament. But I don't think there's anybody in that dressing room who doesn't want to come out and win the gold medal tomorrow. They understand what kind of challenge it's going to be, particularly against Brazil because they'll have a great home court advantage. Their fans are really vocal and I think it will be a great atmosphere.'

Starting the game in the usual fashion, Nicole Ohlde (Kansas State / Clay Center, Kan.) won the opening tip and the USA team members got the ball to Cappie Pondexter (Rutgers / Chicago, Ill.). Pondexter dished it around the perimeter to Koehn who nailed a 3-pointer from the left corner in the opening 10 seconds. From there the United States put together its best quarter of the tournament. Scoring on its first 14 possessions, the USA shot 11-of-13 from the field and grabbed a pair of offensive rebounds over the opening 5:41 of the contest. On the other end of the court the USA's defense pressured the outsized Puerto Ricans into shooting 1-of-7 from the field and committing four turnovers, and at 4:19 the U.S. had the game in hand 29-3. Continuing to outplay the islanders, by the end of the first 10 minutes the red, white and blue held a 42-9 commanding lead.

'Everybody was so unselfish,' commented Ohlde on the USA's first quarter assault. 'Everybody came out fired up, which is something we didn't do in yesterday's game. Today we really made a statement. You want to come out early and make a good statement, come out intense and really fired up and we did that today.'

Additionally, in the first quarter the USA scorched the nets for a red hot 76.2 percent (16-21 FGs) from the field, while limiting Puerto Rico to an ice cold 20.0 percent (3-15 FGs) from the field. In the tale of the tape, 10 of the 11 players who saw playing time in the first quarter scored at least two points, with Ohlde, who shot a perfect 5-of-5 from the field and 2-of-2 from the line, leading the charge with 12 points. Pondexter passed off for five of her game high 11 assists in the first quarter and the U.S. squad outrebounded the Puerto Ricans 14-4 in that time.

'I've never been in a game where in the first half of the first quarter, it was 26-4,' said Stacy Stephens (Texas / Winnsboro, Texas ). 'Never. It was amazing. Everybody was clicking tonight, getting good shots, rebounding and playing together as a team really well.'

By halftime every U.S. player had points on the board, including three in double figures - Laurie Koehn (Kansas State / Hesston, Kan.),Ohlde and Hoffman - and the United States had the game well under control 74-19 at the midway buzzer.

The North Americans cruised through the second half, owning a 96-40 lead by the end of three and went on to collect the semifinal 123-50 victory.

In addition to Koehn's game high 18 points, Ohlde finished with 17, Kara BrownBraxton (Georgia / Jackson, Mich.) and Hoffman scored 14 each, Pondexter chipped in 13, while Jia Perkins (Texas Tech / Granbury, Texas ) and Stacy Stephens (Texas / Winnsboro, Texas ) notched 10 points apiece. Additionally, Hoffman and Stephens posted a double-doubles after grabbing 10 rebounds apiece.

The USA finished the game shooting 59.5 percent (47-79 FGs) from the field and held Puerto Rico to just 28.3 percent (17-60 FGs) on the opposite end. The United States earned a final 54-22 advantage on the glass, passed off for a tournament second best 31 assists and forced 22 turnovers.

Hosted by Brazil in Ribeir�o Preto July 1721 and featuring seven young women national teams from North, South and Central America as well as the Caribbean, the top three nations in the COPABA tournament will qualify for the inaugural International Basketball Federation (FIBA) World Championship For Young Women, which is scheduled to be played in Dubrovnik, Croatia July 25 to August 3, 2003.

Prior to the start of the tournament, the United States defeated the Brazil Young Women's National Team 89-56 on July 14 and the Brazil Senior National Team, which was missing several of its top players, 66-57 on July 15.

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