After dropping two straight games to Brazil and Canada during the final rounds of the Pan-American Games, USA basketball bounced back from a 21-point, third-quarter blowout on Saturday to silence the haters and take home the bronze medal in a win over the Dominican Republic.
The team—head coached by Gonzaga’s Mark Few with assistant coaches Tad Boyle of Colorado and the NBA’s Mike Brown—hit a rough patch midway through the tournament after decimating the likes of Venezuela and Puerto Rico by margins of 23 and 32, respectively.
After USA’s victory over Puerto Rico, Brazil showed the Yanks that they were no longer king in the basketball world. Not within the Americas, at the very least. After going down by as much as 18 points with six minutes left on Thursday night, the Americans rallied back to get within eight. But the deficit proved too great as Brazil went on to win, 83-73.
On Friday, the red, white, and blue faced Canada in the enemy’s territory and, as with the night before, the odds were not ever in their favor. Despite the outcome, it was a dog fight to the very end for the Americans. Though Canada seemed to have the momentum throughout much of the contest, the U.S. never let them get much of a lead on them.
At the end of regulation, the score read 97 apiece, and it appeared neither team was ready to bow out just yet. In the end, however, Canada’s court pressure wore down the Americans in the final five minutes of play and the host nation advanced to the gold medal game, 111-108.
On Saturday morning, Team USA rendezvoused with the Dominican Republic to determine who would walk away empty-handed, and who would return home with some hardware in the third-fourth place matchup.
After soldiering through deficit after deficit, the Americans were finally able to overcome what could have been one of the biggest blowouts during their stay in Toronto to defeat the Dominicans in a spectacular fashion.
From the start to the third quarter, it seemed as though the U.S. had finally reached its breaking point. No matter how hard they trudged on, the Americans just couldn’t shake the impenetrable the Caribbean competitors or their lights-out shooting. At the end of the first quarter, the U.S. allowed the Dominicans to take a 26-15.
But it got much, much worse from there on out. By halftime, the score read 48-35, which was nothing compared to the hole USA dug themselves into midway through the third quarter. When the clock struck 4:23, DR’s Miguel Dicent hit a jumper that put them up 63-42.
It seemed as though all hope was lost for the Americans.
But, stubborn as we Americans can be, the men weren’t in any mood to walk away from this competition with nothing to show for it. In the most Space Jam-tastic fashion imaginable, the Patriots channeled their inner warrior and stormed back in the fourth quarter.
After outscoring the Central Americans 45-19 for the remainder of the contest, the Americans showed what it truly meant to never give in. The final score read 87-82, this time in favor of Team USA.
In a report released by USA Basketball later that evening, Puerto Rican professional player Damien Wilkins reflected on the immense teamwork and determination of his team and how it ultimately won them the most dramatic game of the entire tournament.
“It’s one I’m going to remember for a while,” Wilkins said. “That’s what it is about, though. We came out, and we were shooting ourselves in the foot pretty much all game long, just making bone-head play after bone-head play. And then we fought. We just kept fighting.”
In the final basketball matchup of the Pan-American Games, Brazil solidified its dominance over Canada as it went on to seal a 86-71 victory in the gold medal game.
Contact CU Independent Assistant Sports Editor Alissa Noe at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on twitter at @crazysportgirl1.