Sharp Coaches Team USA to Gold Medal

Jia Perkins and head coach Marsha Sharp claimed the gold medal in the 2002 World Championship For Young Women Qualifying Tournament. (photo courtesy of USA Basketball)

Jia Perkins and head coach Marsha Sharp claimed the gold medal in the 2002 World Championship For Young Women Qualifying Tournament. (photo courtesy of USA Basketball)
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July 21, 2002

RIBEIR?O PRETO, Brazil - Finishing with a perfect 4-0 record, the 2002 USA Basketball World Championship For Young Women Qualifying Team, after already having qualified for the 2003 World Championship For Young Women, claimed the gold medal with an 81-50 victory over host Brazil (4-1) on Sunday afternoon in the inaugural Confederation of Pan American Basketball Associations (COPABA) World Championship For Young Women Qualifying Tournament. Competing in the COC University gymnasium in Ribeir?o Preto, Brazil, the U.S. closed out the tournament undefeated with the help of 18 points and 11 rebounds from Ebony Hoffman (Southern California / Harbor City, Calif.) and 11 points and 13 rebounds from Nicole Ohlde (Kansas State / Clay Center, Kan.).

Argentina won the bronze medal and the third 2003 World Championship For Young Women qualifying berth with an 80-55 victory over Puerto Rico in the day's earlier contest.

"I thought we started off a little bit tentative and maybe we were trying to be a little bit too careful," said USA and Texas Tech University head coach Marsha Sharp. "But after they relaxed, cut loose and played, they played really well. It was a tough atmosphere. The crowd was very vocal and loud and there were a lot of things going on around them that they had to handle. They did a really nice job of handling the environment. The most important thing is that they won the gold medal. That was the goal from their first day together, they wanted to win it and they wanted it to be a team effort. We got both of those things to happen on this trip. I've had a great time coaching them and I hope they have had a great time playing. Maybe they can build on this experience, not only at their own universities, but in future opportunities to play for USA Basketball."

Brazil foiled the USA's usual 3-point play to start the game by winning the opening tip. However, the South Americans were not able to dash the USA's gold medal hopes that easily. The U.S. got the first two points of the game off a Jia Perkins (Texas Tech / Granbury, Texas ) jumper at 9:23, but shooting woes plagued the top two shooting teams in the tournament and after the first 4:10, Brazil was in the lead 7-2. The United States shot 1-of-8, while Brazil managed 2-of-7 and 3-of-3 from the line during that time. Facing the unfamiliar territory of trailing, something the North Americans had not done the entire tournament, did not faze the red, white and blue for long.

Hoffman picked a Brazilian's pocket, drove the lane and made a pair of free throws to put an end to a nearly four-minute USA scoring drought at 5:28. That was the start of a 12-2 run during which time Hoffman scored a total of six points while the USA's defense forced eight turnovers and Brazil went 0-of-3 from the field. The run ended with the United States in the lead for good, 14-9, at 2:15. Over the remainder of the first period, both opponents once again struggled on the offensive end, shooting a combined 1-of-6 from the field and at the end of the first period, the USA was on top 16-9.

"I just made a few shots, got on a roll and we got a lead," said Hoffman. "That helped to get everybody else on a roll. I was just trying to do as much as possible to help out."

Both teams continued to struggle offensively in the second quarter and after nearly three minutes, the score stood at 17-11. Hoffman again got the U.S. back on track, scoring eight consecutive points for the U.S. in a 15-2 run that opened up the game 32-13 with 44 seconds to go before the break. Brazil scored the first half's final four points to pull to 32-17 at the midway buzzer.

The United States opened the third quarter on a 12-4 tear, as Brazil shot 2-of-8, to pull away 44-21 with 4:20 to go. Brazil was never able to recover and by the end of 30 minutes the U.S. held a 25-point, 56-31, advantage. Continuing to balloon its lead in the final 10 minutes, the United States finished with the victory and the gold medal.

In addition to the double-doubles from Hoffman and Ohlde, Kara BrownBraxton (Georgia / Jackson, Mich.) pitched in 13 points in the victory. Cappie Pondexter (Rutgers / Chicago, Ill.), who led all competitors in the tournament in assists, passed off for four and also was credited with four steals, while Lindsay Whalen (Minnesota / Hutchinson, Minn.) also notched four assists and four steals.

The USA shot 44.4 percent from the field (32-72 FGs), while Brazil managed to shoot just 33.3 percent (17-51 FGs) on the night. The U.S. outrebounded its South American rivals 43-26 and came up with 16 steals on 25 Brazilian turnovers. Finishing the tournament as the top two teams in field goal percentage, the USA shot 53.6 percent from the field overall, while Brazil shot 44.4 percent from the floor.

Assisting Sharp on the sidelines are collegiate head coaches Nikita Lowry of New Mexico State University and Lisa Stone of Drake University (Iowa).

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; Argentina, Brazil and the United States, as the top three nations in the COPABA tournament, qualified 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 who are currently playing in the WNBA, 66-57 on July 15.


USA 81, Brazil 50

Gold Medal Game

Sunday, July 21, 2002

USA head coach Marsha Sharp, Texas Tech University

"I don't think either team shot the ball particularly well in the first quarter. We had some good looks, but we were a little bit short, which just means that we were a little bit tight and a little bit tentative. Some of our long range shooters were trying to guide it a little bit. Finally they got past that, we got a little bit of a lead. When we got a 10-point lead, they relaxed a little bit, cut loose and played."

How does it feel to have a gold medal around your neck?

"It's awesome. I'm excited about having the opportunity to do this for USA Basketball. This is what we wanted to do, from the time we went to trials until now, we really wanted this to happen and we're excited that we did."

How will this help Texas Tech next year, especially having Jia Perkins playing on the team?

"International experience can toughen players. Obviously I've learned a lot of things too. This is my first chance to coach USA Basketball internationally, the international game is a little different, a little bit more physical. You can't really understand the officials so you have to handle a lot of circumstances. I had a great staff, they did a nice job of handling that. But anytime you go and coach kids and have the opportunity to play in the summer, it helps you. I've grown as a coach and I hope they've grown as players. In particular, Jia is going to be a stronger player. She had to defend some good athletes, she ran the floor well, played a more up-tempo game than we play in the United States and all those things will make her a better player."

Jia Perkins, Texas Tech University

"This is awesome. We've been waiting for this moment, and working towards this for 10 days now and it's finally kicking in. It's a great feeling, knowing that you represented your country by bringing back a gold medal."

On starting in the gold medal game:

"It's really not that big of a deal. Any way I could contribute to this team, I wanted to do it. Whether it's coming in off the bench or starting, I just try to play hard."

Why were both teams shooting so poorly? Do you think it was the defense or just the nerves from the gold medal game?

"I think it was a little of both. They were playing great defense and we were kind of jittery at first. But then we settled down and our shots were falling and I'm just thankful that we won."




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