The fearsome foursome of Chiney Ogwumike, Skylar Diggins, Bria Hartley and Ann Strother etched their names in the USA basketball record book, earning the first-ever gold medal in the 3x3 World Championships in Athens. [USA Basketball Day 4 recap]
Undefeated in pool play, the team dismantled their group opponents, never allowing anyone to score more than 13 points in the race to 21 and holding the Netherlands (2), Angola (4) and Germany (9) to single-digit scoring to advance to the Eight Finals. Team USA handled Estonia and Hungary with ease and efficiency on Saturday to advance to the semis against Australia.
Ironically pseudo-similar to the London 2012 Olympics, the US beat out the Aussies to advance to face France in the finals. And also similar to the Games, the Americans came away with the gold, but not without a fight under the lights. Both of Sunday's contests were won by a one-point margin.
In the finals, Team USA fell behind 7-2 in the early stages of the game before clawing back to a 10-9 lead just past the midway mark of the 10-minute game. The tightly-contested match was tied at 13 apiece as Hartley dropped in a 2-pointer from beyond the arc followed by two more buckets to give the American squad a 15-13 advantage with under two minutes to play. A defensive stand with two seconds on the clock stymied France's ability to try to tie as the US held on for a 17-16 win.
"We're players that are competitive. Skylar, I've been playing against her plenty of times, and Chiney, we're just really competitive. This entire trip, there are only four of us. We all became really close being together all that time on the court," Hartley told USA Basketball after the victorious effort. "We were able to talk to each other and tell each other what we need to do. I think we knew we had to buckle down, and we looked each other in the eye and said, ‘Let's go, let's turn this around, let's step up defensively.' That's what we did and we picked it up on offense as well."
Diggins also competed in the women's skills challenge, where she got the silver medal in the competition. Gold medalist Pirgit Puu of Estonia edged Diggins out of the top spot after the Notre Dame senior made a ball handling error that proved to be the difference between gold and silver.
"It was a series of ball-handling things and the first day we did it, I got the highest time pretty nonchalant," Diggins said. "When I went through this time, I mishandled the ball and finished it. I still finished, I thought I was going to win, but I mishandled it and I lost it."
Skills challenge video: