The USA 3×3 Women’s National Team (6-0) earned a 21-10 quarterfinal win over Belarus (2-3) and a 21-13 semifinal win over Spain (4-2) at the FIBA 3×3 Olympic Qualifying Tournament on May 30 in Graz, Austria, to qualify the USA women for the inaugural Olympic 3×3 basketball event this summer in Tokyo.
“All the training, all the effort by all the coaches, all the quarantine, it paid off,” said Allisha Gray (Dallas Wings/South Carolina/Sandersville, Ga.), who was the USA’s leading scorer in the competition with 39 points (6.5 ppg.). “We didn’t come all the way out here not to win and be able to qualify for the Olympics. We came out here and achieved what we had to do.”
The USA and France, the other semifinal winner, along with Japan, winner of the third-place game, earned historic Olympic berths.
“We fought really hard,” said Stefanie Dolson (Chicago Sky/Connecticut/Port Jervis, N.Y.), who added 34 points (5.7 ppg.). “We knew this was going to be a tough game and just really proud of how we performed.”
The U.S. offense was balanced overall, with Kelsey Plum (Las Vegas Aces/Washington/Poway, Calif.) recording 32 points (5.3 ppg.) and Katie Lou Samuelson (Seattle Storm/Connecticut/Huntington Beach, Calif.) with 22 points (3.7 ppg.) – averaging a total of 21.2 ppg. as a team.
Against Spain in the semifinal, the USA got out to a 6-2 lead, but with a 2-pointer at 6:30 Spain pulled within one point, 7-6. The USA immediately responded, and Dolson, Plum and Gray added points to push the Americans in front 13-6. From there Spain would get no closer than four points, 14-10 at 2:34.
To cap the win, Plum dished to Dolson for a score inside that made it 21-13 with 21.2 seconds on the clock. Dolson and Gray each finished with seven points, Plum had four and Samuelson scored all three of her points from the line.
The USA only gave up two 2s to Spain in the game.
“I think the biggest overall thing for both games, which is what (coach) Kara (Lawson) has always emphasized, is at the end of the day, it is our pace that helps us win,” Plum said. “We continue to find a way to win, and it was really cool to see that happen, especially in the Spain game, because it was pretty close, it was back and forth. So, we’re just really excited. I love this team, and we have a lot of fun.”
In the quarterfinal against Belarus, it took a minute for either team to get on the board, but the USA built a 6-1 lead at the first media timeout at 6:26. Unlike in previous games, the USA scored by 1s only until the 3:35 mark. Samuelson, who finished with five points, made a 2 to bring the score to 14-6. Gray had four of her six points in the final few minutes, alternating scores with Plum, who made her second 2 to end the game at 21-10 with 1:41 on the clock.
Plum finished with seven points, Gray had six and Dolson had three.
“I think the pool play games really prepared us for today,” Samuelson said. “We really feel like we were hitting our stride in our two games.”
While coaches are not allowed during 3×3 games, Kara Lawson has served as the USA 3×3 Women’s coach/advisor since 2017.
In its first Olympic showing, 3×3 basketball will feature eight men’s and eight women’s teams competing from July 24-28.
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