U.S. Tops Brazil In Semifinals Of Pan Am Games

Aug. 8, 2003

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic - Key scoring by Stanford senior-to-be Nicole Powell (Phoenix, AZ), perfect 18-for-18 free throw shooting and gritty crunch-time defense gave the USA Basketball Women's Pan American Games team (5-1) a 75-69 semifinal overtime victory over Brazil (4-2) in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. The win put the North Americans in Saturday's gold medal game (5 p.m. EDT) against Cuba (5-1), which came back in the second half to post a 58-49 victory over Canada in the other semifinal game.

The USA women have not won a gold medal, nor been in the gold medal game, since the 1987 Pan American Games, which featured the likes of Cynthia Cooper, Anne Donovan, Teresa Edwards and Katrina McClain. The U.S. claimed bronze in 1999, no women's hoop competition was held in 1995 and the U.S. earned bronze again in the 1991 Pan Am Games.

The gold medal game pits the USA against Cuba, a team the U.S. has seen often in recent weeks. Cuba won all three exhibition games against the United States in Havana the week before the Pan American Games opened, then took the first game in the tournament by a score of 84-62 (Aug.2).

Powell scored seven of her 17 points in the extra period to help the USA make up an early four-point deficit as overtime began. Down 68-64 with 3:01 left in overtime, Powell went to work, taking a pass from Iciss Tillis (Duke/Tulsa, Okla.) for a basket underneath, then dropping in a 3-pointer from the right wing to make the score 69-68 with 2:04 to go in OT. The USA defense forced the Brazilians into a shot clock violation on the next possession to get the ball back with 1:18 left. Jamie Carey (Texas / Thornton, Colo.) and Powell then made six consecutive free throws in the final 66 seconds of the game for the second USA victory over Brazil in the tournament.

'Our defense was a big factor today, as was our ability to play hard for 45 minutes,' said head coach Debbie Ryan (University of Virginia). 'Our kids were warriors.'

Down 16-15 at the end of the first quarter, the USA fell further behind, 20-15, when Powell drilled a 3-pointer from the right of the key to spark an 18-7 run that gave the United States a 33-27 lead with 2:53 left in the half. Rebekkah Brunson (Georgetown/Oxon Hill, Md.) closed out the run with five of her 11 points, including a layup off her own steal.

Up 35-30 at halftime, the U.S. appeared to have the game well in hand after Powell hit a 26-foot 3-pointer from the left wing to give the USA a 45-37 lead with 5:49 left in the third quarter. But the Brazilians weren't finished yet and after assembling an 11-4 run to close out the period, the USA's advantage was 49-43 entering the fourth quarter.

In the final regulation period, the Brazilians overcame cold free throw shooting and reeled off nine straight from the foul line, the last two from Adriana Pinto with 2:22 left in the period that made the score 60-59 in favor of the USA. Carey opened the margin back to three, 62-59, with a shot from the left wing with 1:06 remaining.

Brazil evened the score 18 seconds later when Vivian Lopes heaved in a prayer of a three from in front of the USA bench. The following USA possession ended in a turnover giving the ball to Brazil.

Powell responded by getting a hand on the ball in the paint to deny the Brazilians and after a Brazil foul, the USA had chance to claim the game in regulation, but a drive in the lane by Loree Moore (Tennessee/Harbor City, Calif.) came up short, sending the game into overtime.

'It came down to getting into the gold medal game,' stated Powell. 'Brazil came out and they were determined to play harder than the last time. The last five minutes in overtime we just played tougher than they did.'

Powell was 5-of-7 from the floor, 2-of-2 from 3-point range and 5-of-5 from the free throw line to go along with a team-high seven rebounds (four offensive). She also had a steal and three fouls in 34 minutes of action. Carey led all scorers with 18 points and dished out seven assists, while Moore and Brunson each had three steals as the USA forced Brazil into 16 turnovers. Micaela Jacintho led a balanced Brazilian offense with 15 points,

'Obviously we are very familiar with the Cuban team,' remarked Ryan. 'They are very strong, big, and talented. The scouting report won't be a very long one because we already know them.'

Although the USA shot below 40 percent (39.3 percent) over from the floor for the game, the Americans were a much more on target 9-of-17 from beyond the 3-point line (9-17 3pt FGs) and a flawless 18-of-18 from the foul line. Brazil shot 44.6 percent (25-56 FGs) from the floor overall, and was held to only 25.0 percent (4-of-16 FGs) from 3-point, and made just 15-of-23 free throws (.652 percent).

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