Henry Ellenson, Diamond Stone and Malik Newman helped lead the 2014 USA Men’s U17 World Championship Team into the semifinals with a 113-71 quarterfinal victory over China (2-3) at the 2014 FIBA U17 World Championship for Men on Thursday afternoon at the Hamdan Sports Complex in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
Ellenson went for 21 points and 10 rebounds.
Stone scored 17 points and hauled in eight rebounds, while setting USA U17 records for single-game and U17 competition blocked shots. He swatted five, edging the previous record of four, against China and his 20 blocks through five games eclipsed the previous USA U17 mark of 15.
Newman, who has been linked to Stone in a potential package deal, added 16 points and five assists. Harry Giles tallied 12 points and Terrence Ferguson scored. 11.
The Americans advance to the medal semifinals for the third time in three editions of the U17 World Championship and will take on Serbia (5-0) in Friday’s semifinals. The other half of the semifinal bracket features Australia (4-1) versus the winner of tonight’s France (4-1) versus Spain (3-1) quarterfinal game (1 p.m. EDT).
Winners will advance gold medal game on Saturday.
“After watching China and Italy play the other night, as a coaching staff we were concerned with a lot of things that China did,” said USA head coach Don Showalter (Iowa City H.S., Iowa), who now owns an overall 21-0 win-loss record in FIBA U17 World Championship Games. “(Yanhao Zhao) is a great shooter and we did a great job on him. Fergie (Terrance Ferguson) and V.J. (King) and whoever else, we had different guys guarding him, but we held him to 11 points, which is way under his average (22.3 ppg. in China’s first four games).
“We kept their bigs off the boards. Diamond Stone played very well, Caleb (Swanigan) came off the bench and played well. Really, all of our bigs did. So, that was big for us too. And, (I’m pleased with) how we got started out. We had to get started out in a way that China was always trying to make a comeback as opposed to playing on top. That’s what they did against Italy.”
The Americans started off strong, scored the game’s first seven points and went up 15-4 midway through the first quarter. After its defense allowed China’s only field goal of the stanza, the USA grabbed a 19-6 lead with 4:05 remaining. China hit 3-of-4 from the line to pull to 10 points, but a put-back and a traditional 3-point play from Ellenson sparked an 11-2 run and at the end of the first 10 minutes of play the United States owned a 30-11 advantage
“China picked up its pace in the second quarter and matched the U.S. almost point for point. With the USA’s lead at 20 points, 37-17, with five minutes to go in the half, China outscored the U.S. 8-2 over the next few minutes. After a tip-in gave China its final points of the second quarter and cut the lead to 39-25 at 2:14, Showalter called for time to regroup.
“He just said that we dropped the energy level,” recalled Giles on what Showalter stressed during that timeout. “We were acting like we won the game already and we had them where we thought they were going to quit, but then we gave them a light to get back in the game. So, he just got on us about not letting up because China is good, they can come back and make a run. If we let them get close, they’ll come back. So we went out there and picked up the energy again and got back to where we wanted to be.”
Coming out of the huddle and fueled by an energized Ellenson, the USA quickly put the brakes on any upset hopes China might be harboring. The Americas got three-straight steals and Ellenson scored 10 points in a 12-0 run that closed out the half with the USA back in full command, 51-25.
“I just brought energy,” said Ellenson on his contributions to end the first half. “That’s what we needed. I just got after it defensively and that turns into offense. That was a fun spurt for me, for sure. I think sometimes we just didn’t bring the energy. We were just letting them do whatever. So, coach called a couple time outs when we were dead. We just got on our guys to bring the energy, to get the run going because we don’t want to give them any hope to get back in the game.”
The run continued into the second half as the red, white and blue outscored China 18-2 in the first four minutes of the second half for a combined 30-2 scoring spree that put the game out of reach, 69-27.
“(At halftime coach Showalter) was telling us that China, they can always get back into the game,” said Newman. “The game wasn’t over, so we played as if we were down.”
Closing the third quarter up 85-43, the USA sailed through the fourth quarter for the 113-71 victory.
Josh Jackson (Consortium College Prep H.S./ Southfield, Mich.) turned in nine points, six boards and four of the USA’s 18 assists; while Jayson Tatum (Chaminade College Prep/St. Louis, Mo.) added eight points.
“We have to stay focused,” said Tatum on the USA’s final two games. “We have to respect our opponents, come out there and play our game and we should be fine.”
(Release/Photo: USA Basketball)