Bria Hartley had 11 points, a game-high four assists and four steals in 21 minutes tonight to lead the U.S. to an 81-38 victory over Brazil in the gold medal game of the FIBA Americas U-18 Championship for Women at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. It is the fifth straight gold medal for the U.S. and its sixth in the history of the tournament.
Both teams qualified for the 2011 FIBA U-19 World Championship for Women in Chile.
Stefanie Dolson added two points, four rebounds and three blocks in 15 minutes.
The U.S., who was coached by Hartford’s Jen Rizzotti, defeated Brazil by a total of 86 points in two games in the tournament. The U.S. is a combined 38-2 in U-18/Junior Qualifiers. Brazil is the only team to defeat the U.S., winning the gold medal game in 1992 and 1996.
Hartley averaged 10.6 points, 3.4 rebounds and team-highs of 4.0 assists and 2.4 steals in 21.0 minutes over the five games. She was second on the team in scoring behind Stanford-bound post player Chiney Ogwumike (13.2) and had a 1.8 assist to turnover ratio.
Dolson averaged 6.2 points and 4.2 rebounds in 14.8 minutes.
Here’s the postgame Q & A with USA Basketball …
Q: What does it feel like to win a gold medal?
A: “It feels wonderful,’’ Dolson said. “It’s maybe a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It feels great.’’
A: “This feels great,’’ Hartley said. “It’s everything we’ve all been working toward. We earned it. We finally got a gold medal.’’
Q: Did this help you improve as a player?
A: “I definitely got better,’’ Dolson said. “I think we can all agree that we all got better in the three weeks that we’ve been here. I know for myself, I’ve gotten more patient waiting for open shots and stuff like that, finding a better shot, and we’ve all just grown so close to each other. So, I think we’ve all gotten a lot better.’’
Q: What was the best part of this experience?
A: “It’s just a cool experience to share this with 11 other girls,’’ Dolson said. “And the fact that we all got so close and that we are like a family, it’s cool.’’
Q: Does this feeling compare to what you thought it’d be?
A: “No, definitely not,’’ Hartley said. “It’s even better than I thought it would be.’’
Q: What was working for you in tonight’s game?
A: “I would say just running the system and doing what coach wanted me to do, and just going out there and just playing my game,’’ Hartley said.
Q: What’s this entire experience been like for you?
A: “I definitely learned a lot from Coach Rizzotti and the whole staff,’’ Hartley said. “And then I got to know a bunch of new teammates. I just had a great experience.’’
Q: You were an assistant on the gold-medal winning 2006 USA Women’s U-18 National Team. How does it feel to win one as a head coach?
A: “It feels great,’’ Rizzotti said. “Anytime you get a chance to be a part of USA Basketball, it’s an honor. But to really have the reins of the team and to feel like you build its identity, it’s exciting. I’m just really proud of the product we put out on the floor at the end of the day, and that’s what our job is, to get the best out of these kids.
Q: This group of players, what did they teach you?
A: “They taught me a lot,’’ Rizzotti said. “They taught me that, even at this level, you can create the whole and not just win as individuals. Sometimes at a young age, I think you rely so much on individual talent. And this group really came together, and I think we were much better because we learned to play as a team. They challenged me to try to get the best out of them every day, and they showed me that if I gave them everything I had that they could learn, they could absorb it and they could do it the way I wanted to. So it was really nice. It was a great group to work with.’’