COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (September 9, 1997) -- Featuring 12-players from the Continental Basketball Association (CBA), the USA Men's Basketball Tournament of the Americas Team won its last eight games to finish 8-1 and successfully reclaim the Tournament of the Americas title. The U.S., also featuring a team of CBA players, won the 1993 Tournament of the Americas championship as well.
Success on the international court is not new to CBA manned USA Basketball teams. A USA squad also comprised of CBA players captured the 1993 Tournament of the Americas gold medal with a 6-1 record, while a CBA-manned USA Basketball team finished with a silver medal at the April 1995 Pan American Games in Argentina.
The U.S. squad proved to be an especially tough team down the stretch, persevering to win a number of close games. The 1997 Tournament of the Americas featured 10 nations from North, South and Central America, competing not only for the Americas title, but also for the America's zone four qualifying berths to the 1998 FIBA Men's World Championship. While the United States entered the tournament not needing to earn a qualification berth for the World Championship, the U.S. had previously qualified for the World Championship by capturing the gold medal at the 1996 Olympic Games, Puerto Rico, Brazil, Argentina and Canada, based on their finishes, also qualified for the 1998 FIBA Men's World Championship.
"I'm glad I had the best players in the tournament because this is a player's game. One of the most moving experiences I've ever had was when all of our guys were singing the national anthem, it almost brought tears to my eyes. This is an extremely proud moment," remarked USA mentor Mo McHone, who won CBA championships in 1995 and 1996.
1997 CBA All-Star Travis Williams (Florida Beachdogs/Columbia, S.C.), a 6-7 forward who finished 1996-97 ranked as the CBA's fifth leading scorer, paced the Americans in scoring and rebounding, averaging 17.2 ppg. and 7.1 rpg. 6-7 Jason Sasser (Sioux Falls Skyforce/Dallas, Texas) added 16.4 ppg. and 4.6 rpg., while guards Corey Beck (Sioux Falls Skyforce/Memphis, Tenn.), and Rusty LaRue (Idaho Stampede/Oak Ridge, N.C.) added 11.6 ppg., and 11.3 ppg., respectively, while shooting 60.9 percent (14-23 3pt FGs) and 56.1 percent (23-41 3pt FGs) from behind the three-point arc.
The U.S. as a squad averaged 93.9 points a game during the tournament, shot 52.0 percent (309-594 FGs) from the floor overall, and a solid 45.7 percent (64-140 3pt Fgs)from beyond the three-point line. Although checking in as one of the tournament's shortest teams, the U.S. managed to outrebound its opponents by an average of 34.9 to 26.3.
Having defeated Puerto Rico earlier in preliminary play, the U.S. faced Puerto Rico a second time in the Tournament's gold medal game on August 31 and behind a balanced scoring attack that saw six U.S. team members score in double-figures, including a team best 18 points from 6-3 guard Beck, the USA defeated Puerto Rico 95-86 to finish 8-1 overall, capture the gold medal and the Tournament of the Americas title.
Although the U.S. led 52-28 at halftime, Puerto Rico rallied to within one point several times in the second half, however, the U.S. each time managed to turn away Puerto Rico's upset efforts. In addition to Beck's 18 points, Sasser finished with 16, Evers Burns (Oklahoma City /Laurel, Md.) had 12, LaRue accounted for 11 and Reggie Jordan (Sioux Falls Skyforce/ Maywood, Ill.) and Mike McDonald (Grand Rapids Hoops/Longview, Texas) each scored 10.
With a spot in the gold medal game already assured for the USA, the U.S., behind a 20 point and 12 rebound effort from Williams, was solid down the stretch and earned an impressive 93-89 victory over Brazil (4-3) on August 30 to close out semifinal play.
The U.S. jumped out to a 4-0 lead to start the game, then leading 8-7, the U.S. went on a 10-2 run to take an 18-9 lead with 13:55 left in the half. Brazil stormed back and following a 14-4 run of its own, had a one-point lead, 23-22, with 7:55 left before half. With 1:43 left in the first half, Brazil led 42-39, but Beck made one of two free throws, then Sasser connected on a jumper and Williams made a free throw to complete a three-point play with 20 seconds left to give the U.S. a 45-42 lead at halftime.
Opening the second half with a 10-5 run, with six points coming from Williams and four from Jordan, the U.S. led 55-47 with 16:37 to play. Brazil rallied back within a point, 71-70, but the U.S. pushed its lead to 80-72 with 6:43 to go after posting an 8-2 run. Brazil was back within five, 81-76, with 4:58 to play, when Beck hit a three-pointer, then following a Brazil hoop, LaRue connected on a three to give the Americans an 87-78 lead with 3:51 to go. Brazil wasn't done though, and with 2:17 remaining had closed the gap to three, 87-84. LaRue made two free throws with 1:44 to go to up the U.S. lead to five, but Brazil again answered right back to cut the lead to three, 89-86, with 1:24 left. After the USA's Williams made one of two free throws, Brazil's Rogerio Klafke, who finished with 21 points, hit a three-pointer with 1:08 left on the clock to make the score 90-89. Burns hit a huge baseline jumper with 40 seconds to play to expand the U.S. advantage to 92-89, and following a Brazil missed three-pointer which saw the ensuing rebound end up as a jump ball, the USA's Williams controlled the tip and with six seconds left, Beck was fouled. Making his first free throw to push the U.S. lead to four, 93-89, he missed his second, but it didn't matter as the U.S. had the 93-89 win. Beck aided the U.S. offense with 19 points on 5-6 shooting from three, while Jordan finished with 14 points and Sasser had 10 points.
Led by four USA players scoring in double figures, the American's balanced scoring effort and strong defensive showing resulted in a 91-78 victory over Argentina. The U.S., which with the win improved its record to 6-1 overall, received a team best 16 points from LaRue, while Sasser and Williams each tallied 15 points, and Kermit Holmes (Oklahoma City /Okmulgee, Okla.) added 13 points.
"Our second group (Beck, LaRue, Jordan, Williams and Sasser) brought us back after we dug ourselves into a hole in the first half," stated McHone, the USA and CBA Sioux Falls Skyforce head coach. "Once again Travis (Williams) and Rusty (LaRue) played well for us, and Mike McDonald and Kermit Holmes also stepped it up for us. I thought we came out at the start of the second half and took the life out of them (Argentina)," added McHone.
The USA struggled offensively in the first half's opening minutes and with 12:45 to play in the half the Americans were behind by 13, 18-5. Still down 13, 23-10 with 10:38 to play before half, the U.S. slowly chipped away at Argentina's lead and with 6:54 left in the first stanza, the U.S. trailed 29-22 following a LaRue jumper. Scoring the next eight points, with Beck and LaRue each sending down a three, the U.S. took its first lead of the game 30-29 with 3:42 remaining in the half. The two teams traded points in the half's closing minutes and Jim Farmer (Fort Wayne Fury/Dothan, La.) drained a three with 21 seconds to go to help give the U.S. a 39-37 advantage at halftime.
Owning a 45-41 advantage with 18:10 remaining, the USA's Williams started the Americans on an 18-2 offensive surge that saw the U.S. take command 63-43 with 13:12 to play. The U.S. went on to open up a 34 point lead, 87-53 with 4:55 to go, and despite Argentina finishing strong, the U.S. still claimed the 91-78 win.
The U.S. shut down upset minded Uruguay in the game's final minutes and with LaRue and Beck accounting for eight and seven points, respectively, the Americans outscored the hosts 24-4 over the game's final 7:38 to earn a 98-84 victory August 28 to take sole possession of first place at the Tournament of the Americas.
"I'm glad that one is over," remarked a relieved McHone. "Uruguay shot incredibly well until the last minutes. We really played big down the stretch, especially Rusty (LaRue) and Corey (Beck)."
Uruguay, behind a vocal home crowd estimated at over 9000, played the U.S. straight up in the first half. The two teams battled away for the first 10 minutes of the half without either team managing much of a lead. With Uruguay leading 29-27 and 7:41 to play in the half, the USA's tallest player, 6-10 McDonald, was ejected from the contest after being fouled hard to which he responded by pushing the Uruguay player. The game's momentum switched to Uruguay and the home team went on to open up a 33-27 lead. With 3:08 to play in the opening stanza, the contest was back even 45-45, but Uruguay put together a 9-2 run to take control 54-47 with 1:26 to play before intermission. The USA's Williams completed a three-point by play by making a free throw, then Holmes tapped in a rebound and at halftime the U.S. had cut the deficit to 54-52. Although the U.S. hit 60.0 percent (21-35 FGs) of its shots in the first half, Uruguay was also hot, shooting 54.8 percent (17-31 FGs) and a sizzling 63.6 percent (7-11 3pt FGs) from three-point.
The second half continued to be a battle and with the game tied 61-61, the U.S. scored six straight points, with Sasser scoring four, to take charge 67-61 with 14:41 remaining. Uruguay continued it torrid shooting and outscored the U.S. 10-0 to battle back into the lead 71-67 with 10:09 remaining. Uruguay remained in control and with 7:38 to play, the U.S. appeared in trouble, trailing 80-74. Holding Uruguay scoreless for the next seven minutes, the U.S. scored 20 straight points during a 24-4 run to blow the game wide open. Beck gave the U.S. the lead for good 82-80 when he connected on a three-pointer with 5:22 left, then with 3:48 to go and the score 86-80, LaRue knocked down back-to-back three-pointers knock the air out of Uruguay and push the U.S. advantage to 92-80.
The USA's McDonald came off the bench to score 17 points and spark the Americans to a 100-88 victory over Cuba on August 27 as the U.S. successfully kicked off its semifinals round play at the 1997 Tournament of the Americas.
The U.S. got off to a sluggish start, falling behind 5-0, 7-2 and 11-4 with the game just three minutes old. The U.S. rallied to tie the contest 14-14 following a Jordan basket with 14:51 left in the half. The two teams battled back and forth for the following minutes and with the USA trailing 24-23, Beck nailed a three-pointer with 11:00 to go in the half to give the U.S. the lead for good, 26-24. McDonald scored the USA's next four points to boost the U.S. advantage to 30-24 and following a LaRue three, the U.S. was in charge 33-24 with 9:11 left in the half.
Taking a 59-47 lead to the locker room at halftime, the U.S. continued to control the contest opening up a 17 point lead, 79-62, with 11:11 to play, then opened its biggest lead of the game of 18 points, 90-72, with 5:06 remaining. Cuba outscored the U.S. 10-2 to cut the gap to 10, 92-82, with 2:26 to play, but with the score 93-83, the U.S. ended Cuba's hopes of victory when LaRue hit his fourth three-pointer of the game to increase the U.S. lead to 96-83 with 1:38 to play. While McDonald recorded 17 points and six rebounds, Williams also finished with 17 points, and the U.S. cause was further aided by LaRue's 15 points (4-4 3pt FGs), 15 points and six rebounds from Sasser and 12 points from Beck.
Striking quick and jumping out to a 14-2 lead, the USA Men's Tournament of the Americas Team claimed its third consecutive win August 24 when it knocked off Puerto Rico 93-82. Williams paced the Americans with a game high 29 points and nine rebounds.
"Travis (Williams) and Rusty (LaRue) really paced us offensively in the first half and I thought we really played well defensively as a team," stated McHone. "In the second half I was really pleased to see the team keep its composure when Puerto Rico pulled within four, and again Williams stepped up in the final minutes to insure that we would not lose this game."
With Williams scoring 18 first half points and LaRue adding 12 points in the first stanza, the U.S. led from start to finish. The Americans sprinted out to 7-0 and 14-2 leads before the game was 3:30 old and Puerto Rico played catch up from there. Managing to close the U.S. advantage to eight, 49-41, with 2:27 to play in the opening half, the U.S. closed out the half with a 9-4 offensive run to take a 13 point, 58-45 lead to the locker room at halftime.
Williams and LaRue started the second half right where they had left off, accounting for the USA's first 11 points. With Williams scoring six points and LaRue five, the U.S. maintained its lead over Puerto Rico and with 14:24 to play led 59-47. After Williams picked up his fourth foul of the game, Puerto Rico rallied to close the gap to four, 80-76 with 6:31 to go. Williams reentered the game and almost immediately was heard from as he scored with 6:15 remaining to push the U.S. advantage to 82-76. Burns added a pair of free throws as the U.S. took command 84-76 and Puerto Rico never again threatened as the U.S. went on to record the 93-82 victory. In addition to William's 29 points, the U.S. victorious effort was assisted by 17 points from LaRue, and 13 points from Beck.
In an unbelievable testament to their will, the USA stormed back in the final 1:42 of the game to snatch an apparent victory away from a stunned Canadian team 102-97 on August 23. Seemingly deep in a hole, the U.S. trailed 94-89 with only 1:42 remaining in the contest. However, Sasser scored to cut the gap to 94-91, then Williams, who finished with a game high 24 points with 18 of those coming in the second half, made a crucial steal and scored to put the U.S. within one, 94-93 with 1:17 to play. Williams then put the U.S. ahead for good 96-94 with 32 seconds left when he scored and converted one foul shot after being fouled on the play. Following a Canada miss, which the U.S. rebounded, Sasser was fouled and went to the foul line to shoot two with 17 seconds to play. Making his first free throw, on Sasser's second attempt, Canada's Martin Keane attempted to knock the ball off the hoop, but made contact with the ball before it hit the rim and officials ruled the free throw good and assessed Keane a technical foul, giving Sasser two additional free throws and the U.S. possession of the ball following the free throws. Sasser made both free throws to push the U.S. advantage to 100-94, then Williams and Jordan each made one of two free throws in the final seconds to increase the USA lead to 102-94. Canada's Sherman Hamilton hit a three at the buzzer to make the final 102-97, but the U.S. had the incredible victory.
While Williams accounted for 24 points for the U.S., the Americans also received impressive offensive showings from Sasser, 20 points, while Burns finished with 13 and Beck added 12 points.
A day after falling in their opener and shooting poorly, the USA's shooting woes disappeared and behind 33 points from Sasser the U.S. routed the Dominican Republic 98-70 to record its first win of the Tournament.
"Jason had a tremendous first half. He really kept us in it. Adrian Griffith (Connecticut Pride/Wichita, Kan.) also played well, he really slowed down Dominican Republic's Franklin Western which seemed to disrupt their offense and that was a key," said McHone. "We played more like I thought were capable of playing today, and I think the difference between today and yesterday (when the U.S. lost 85-75 to Venezuela) was that we made adjustments much better,"
Unlike the previous night's effort which saw the U.S. fall behind early, the Americans dashed out to a 16-6 lead and maintained at least a six point advantage before retiring to the locker room at halftime up by 11, 49-38. Sasser was a one-man wrecking ball in the first half, scoring 23 points on 8-9 shooting from the field, including a perfect 4-4 from three-point. Although the U.S. hit 60.0 percent (18-30 FGs) of its first half shots, the Dominican Republic was able to keep things tight by getting the U.S. in foul trouble and hitting 20 of 30 free throws in the first half alone.
The Dominican Republic made a strong push at the start of the second half and cut the U.S. advantage to six, 53-47 with 15:35. But the Americans circled their wagons and went on a 21-2 scoring run to take command 74-51 with 8:14 to play. The Dominican Republic crew never recovered as the U.S. sailed in for the 98-70 win. While Sasser shouldered a large portion of the USA's offense, hitting 12 of 16 FGs including 6-6 from beyond three-point range, the winning effort was also assisted by Burns, 12 points and seven rebounds, and 10 points from Erik Martin (Idaho Stampede/West Covina, Calif.).
Despite fighting back to grab a three-point lead late in the second half, the USA men's team faltered down the stretch and fell to Venezuela 85-75 on August 21 in their opening game of the 1997 Tournament of the Americas in Montevideo, Uruguay. The American squad was led by Sasser's 17 points. The United States was plagued from the start by frigid shooting and quickly found itself trailing Venezuela by as many as 10 points in the first stanza. Trailing by nine at halftime, 40-31, the U.S. opened the second half with a 9-0 scoring run to pull even, 40-40. The game remained a tight affair and with 13:40 to play the U.S. team led 61-60. The U.S. increased its lead to three, but Venezuela rallied back to take charge and with 3:42 remaining led by six. Hitting a field goal and converting the foul shot to complete a three point play, Venezuela increased its lead to nine with 3:34 to play and the U.S. never recovered.
While Sasser paced the U.S. offense, Holmes tossed in 12 points, Jordan
added 11 points, six rebounds and five steals, and Williams finished with 10
points. The U.S. shot 46.6 percent (28-60 FGs) overall from the field, but
was just 5-19 (26.3%) from behind the three-point arc and only 66.7 percent
(14-21 FTs) from the foul line. Venezuela, shot 47.2 percent (25-53 FGs)
overall and 35.3 percent (6-17 3-pt FGs) from three, and was 29 of 38 from the
charity line (76.3%).
NAME POS HGT WGT AGE YOG CBA TEAM / SCHOOL / HOMETOWN Corey Beck G 6-3 200 26 1995 Sioux Falls/Arkansas/Memphis, TN Evers Burns F 6-8 265 25 1993 Oklahoma City/Maryland/Laurel, MD Jim Farmer G 6-4 190 32 1987 Fort Wayne/Alabama/Dothan, LA Adrian Griffin F 6-5 220 23 1996 Connecticut/Seton Hall/Wichita, KS Kermit Holmes F 6-6 225 28 1991 Oklahoma City/Oklahoma/Okmulgee, OK Reggie Jordan G 6-4 195 29 1991 Sioux Falls/New Mexico State/Maywood,IL Rusty LaRue G 6-2 195 24 1996 Idaho/Wake Forest/Oak Ridge, NC Erik Martin F 6-6 220 26 1993 Idaho/Cincinnati/West Covina, CA Mike McDonald C 6-10 232 28 1995 Grand Rapids/New Orleans/Longview, TX Russ Millard F 6-8 240 24 1996 La Crosse/Iowa/Cedar Rapids, IA Jason Sasser F 6-7 200 23 1996 Sioux Falls/Texas Tech/Dallas, TX Travis Williams F 6-7 220 28 1991 Florida/S.C. State/Columbia, SCHead Coach: Mo McHone, Sioux Falls Skyforce
Assistant Coach: Eric Musselman, Florida Beachdogs
Assistant Coach: Mark Hughes, Grand Rapids Hoops
Team Physician: Steve Foley, Sioux Falls Skyforce
Athletic Trainer: Geoff Clark, Yakima Sun Kings
NAME G FGM-FGA PCT 3PM-3PA PCT FTM-FTA PCT REB/AVG PTS/AVG A B S Williams 9 59-102 .578 0- 4 .000 37-52 .712 64/7.1 155/17.2 3 3 13 Sasser 9 51-102 .500 11-28 .393 35-41 .854 41/4.6 148/16.4 8 1 16 Beck 9 37- 67 .552 14-23 .609 16-23 .696 15/1.7 104/11.6 12 0 16 LaRue 9 36- 65 .554 23-41 .561 7- 8 .875 26/2.9 102/11.3 2 5 7 Burns 9 27- 53 .509 0- 0 .--- 22-26 .846 43/4.8 76/ 8.4 4 5 11 Jordan 9 33- 68 .485 0- 0 .--- 7-16 .438 37/4.1 73/ 8.1 27 3 16 Holmes 9 25- 55 .455 13-31 .419 10-12 .833 8/0.9 73/ 8.1 0 0 5 McDonald 9 22- 30 .733 0- 0 .--- 14-17 .824 35/3.9 58/ 6.4 2 9 7 Martin 9 12- 20 .600 0- 0 .--- 6-15 .400 25/2.8 30/ 3.3 6 9 5 Farmer 7 4- 20 .200 2- 8 .250 3- 3 1.000 9/1.3 13/ 1.9 1 0 1 Griffin 6 2- 6 .333 0- 3 .000 4- 6 .667 9/1.5 8/ 1.3 0 0 1 Millard 5 1- 6 .167 1- 2 .500 2- 2 1.000 2/0.4 5/ 1.0 0 0 0 USA 9 309-594 .520 64-140 .457 163-221 .738 314/34.9 845/93.9 65 37 98 OPP. 9 244-542 .450 65-172 .378 206-270 .763 237/26.3 759/84.3 41 15 104
DATE OPPONENT W/L SCORE HIGH POINTS HIGH REBOUNDS 8/21 Venezuela L 75-85 Sasser -17 LaRue - 8 8/22 Dominican Rep. W 98-70 Sasser -33 LaRue - 9 8/23 Canada W 102-97 Williams - 24 Williams - 9 8/24 Puerto Rico W 93-82 Williams - 29 Williams - 9 8/27 Cuba W 100-88 McDonald - 17 McDonald -6 Williams - 17 Sasser - 6 8/28 Uruguay W 98-84 Williams - 26 Williams - 7 8/29 Argentina W 91-78 LaRue - 16 Sasser - 8 8/30 Brazil W 93-89 Williams - 20 Williams - 12 8/31 Puerto Rico W 95-86 Beck - 18 Burns - 8
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