Mt. Lebanon’s Oldaker guides U.S. team to gold

Published Aug 26, 2014 at 2:38 pm (Updated Aug 26, 2014 at 2:38 pm)

Behind an eight-point effort, including 4-of-4 from the free throw line from Katie Lou Samuelson (Mater Dei H.S./Huntington Beach, Calif.), the 2014 U.S. Youth Olympic Women’s Basketball Team (13-0) held off the Netherlands (11-2) 19-10 in the 3x3 basketball competition, to finish with an unblemished record and win the USA’s first gold medal at the 2014 Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing, China.

It also marks the first gold medal for USA Basketball at the Youth Olympic Games, as the 2010 U.S. women’s squad finished with bronze at the inaugural Youth Olympic Games.

With the game tied at 10-10, and about three minutes left to play, Arike Ogunbowale (Divine Savior Holy Angels H.S./Milwaukee, Wis.) drove to the basket for the easy layup, making it 11-10 USA.

Ogunbowale’s bucket sparked a change in momentum that went the red, white and blue’s way.

“It was crazy,” four-time USA gold medalist Ogunbowale said of playing the Netherlands in the final game and Hungary in semifinals. “We knew they were good teams because we had scrimmaged them when we first got to China, so we knew it was going to be hard, but we came out strong and knocked down our free throws, which was really crucial too.”

Samuelson made sure to keep the energy going and put it in full gear when, with 2:17 left, she fought her way to the basket, made a left-handed layup, and drew a foul.

My shooting wasn’t on today,” four-time USA gold medalist Samuelson, said. “I knew that I had to get to the basket. At that point when I got the and-one, I think all of us were just like, ‘ok, this is enough. We need to take it away right now.’”

With the Netherlands in foul trouble, Samuelson went to the line for two, made them both, and gave the USA a 14-10 lead; the first time in the game any team led by more than two points. The USA finished 5-of-7 from the free throw line, compared to 1-of-2 for the Netherlands.

Ogunbowale and Napheesa Collier (Incarnate Word Academy/O’Fallon, Mo.) took care of the rest for the North Americans, as they alternated the last five points, allowing the USA to close out the game and earn the gold. Ogunbowale finished with seven points, while Collier notched four.

With a strong focus on getting in the paint and getting the rebounds, De’Janae Boykin (Charles H. Flowers H.S./Springdale, Md.) made sure to be a strong presence with the latter, grabbing rebounds and blocking shots to get back the ball and allow her teammates to get the open shots.

Esther Fokke was the highest scorer for the Netherlands with six points.

The USA made it into the gold medal game by defeating Hungary (10-3) 21-14 in the semifinals earlier in the day.

Just like the team had done in all its previous matches until then, it scored 21 points in less than 10 minutes behind a balanced attacked from its players, as Collier, Ogunbowale and Samuelson all finished with seven points apiece.

Also, after dropping semifinal games to the Netherlands and the USA, respectively, Spain (10-3) topped Hungary (10-3) 12-11 in the third place game and earned the 2014 Youth Olympic Games bronze medal.

The U.S. team was led by head coach Dori Oldaker (Mt. Lebanon H.S., Pa.), who conducted practices, but as per 3x3 rules, was not allowed to coach during games.

“I can finally breath,” said Oldaker. “At first I was really nervous with the Netherlands game, but I was so confident in our girls, and I knew they would come strong in the end. I’m just so proud of them. We had talked about defending the Netherlands because we were concerned about their outside shooters, but at one point we had them at like five or six fouls, so I knew we had to take it to the hoop so we could get to the line and that’s what we did.”

In only its second Youth Olympic Games participation, the USA women are now two-for-two in making it to the medal stand, after taking bronze in 2010 with a 6-1 record, and now earning gold in 2014 while finishing with a perfect 13-0.

The basketball competition at the Youth Olympic Games was played with a 3x3 format organized by the International Olympic Committee and FIBA. The 2014 Youth Olympic Games included 20 men’s teams and 20 women’s teams, as well as the Shootout for women and a Dunk Contest for men. Each team was comprised of four players, and athletes eligible for this competition must have been born between Jan. 1, 1996 and Dec. 31, 1997.

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