Their road wasn’t nearly as easy as last year, but the result was the same: The Oregon Ducks are the champions of the USA Women’s 3x3 National Championship once again, defeating Drive 21-20 in the title game Saturday night in Las Vegas.
This year’s Ducks squad, which consists of 2018 returners Sabrina Ionescu, Ruthy Hebard and Oti Gildon, as well as newcomer Lydia Giomi, were down by as many as four points in the final. But as Oregon settled into a more comfortable shooting rhythm, the contact on both sides increased.
With less than a minute to go in regulation and the game tied 20-20, Drive’s Rhyne Howard (Kentucky) fouled Ionescu, sending the career 83.6 percent free throw shooter to the line to grab the decisive 21st point.
Along with Howard, Drive was made up of Becca Hittner (Drake), Janelle Bailey (North Carolina) and Destiny Slocum (Oregon State).
Both teams had one loss on their records entering Saturday’s knockout stages, as Friday saw Oregon fall to Miami and Drive drop an overtime contest to Stanford.
Oregon’s road to the title was much more straightforward last year, as the Ducks — with Erin Boley instead of Giomi — rode an undefeated record to a 21-5 rout of Bye Felicia in the championship game.
Although the Ducks are national champions, this entire weekend served as the U.S. trials for the 2019 Pan American Games 3x3 team, meaning any athlete who participated could still make the team. Last year, though, the winning team from Oregon was eventually chosen to represent the U.S. at the FIBA 3x3 World Cup.