Team USA Captures Bronze Medal

Behind a balanced scoring effort that saw all 12 USA players score, including five in double digits, the USA men’s team persevered and fought to a well earned 94-92 bronze medal game victory over the Dominican Republic Sunday at the CODE Dome.

“I’m excited about this. It’s our first medal since 1999 and I’m really proud of our guys for bouncing back after a tough loss yesterday and coming out and playing hard this morning,” said USA coach Nate Tibbetts.

In an offensive game that saw the two teams combine to score 186 points, the game’s outcome was decided by a defensive stop by the American squad in the final seconds.

Neither team could establish much of an upper hand in the contest. The USA’s largest lead on the day was eight, while the Dominican Republic’s biggest advantage was four.

The two teams entered the final quarter tied 68-68, and the U.S. found itself down by a point, 78-77, with 7:02 left in the contest. Donald Sloan (Reno Bighorns/Texas A&M ’10) scored on a drive to the basket to give the lead back the red, white and blue, and the U.S. never again trailed. On the USA’s next possession, Lance Thomas (Austin Toros/Duke ’10) nailed a mid-range jumper and Brian Butch (Bakersfield Jam/Wisconsin ’08) followed up Thomas’ score with a 3-pointer at 5:31 to push the U.S. out in front 84-78.

After Sloan capped his day’s scoring with 3-pointer at 4:07, the USA led to 89-83. But the Dominican Republic rallied and after forward Elys Garcia made two free throws, the Dominicans had closed the gap to 92-90 with just under two minutes remaining.

With the 24-second shot clock running down, USA forward Marcus Lewis (Tulsa 66ers/Oral Roberts ’09) drove to the hoop for a layup to put the U.S. up 94-90 with 1:20 left. Jack Martinez countered on the other end for DR with 30.3 seconds to go to again make it a two point game and set the stage for the exciting finish.

“Blake (Ahearn) passed it to me I think and I looked at the clock and there were like five seconds left. Coach always tells me if you get the ball with five seconds left just drive it, try to drive it, try to draw a foul, so I drove. I was trying to find Blake or JD (Justin Dentmon), one of them I thought would be open, and then help came and he kept going to the side and the basket was wide open,” said Lewis on his game winning basket.

The Dominican team missed a three at the offensive end and the USA, looking to use as much of the shot clock as possible on its possession, failed to get a shot off, but did run the remaining game time to 4.6 seconds.

The Dominicans, following a time out which advanced the ball to their offensive end for the inbounds pass, got the ball to guard Francisco Ozuna. Ozuna, who was 2-of-2 from 3-point to that point in the game, drove to his right. Well defended by the taller Thomas, Ozuna launched a 3-pointer that missed its mark and when Jerome Dyson (Tulsa 66ers/Connecticut ’10) secured the rebound the USA had the narrow win and the 2011 Pan American Games bronze medals.

“Me and Lance had pre-switched it and we were switching all the screens and it just so happened that we had a long defender on a small shooter. He had a good contest and if he makes it he makes it. We had good defense and were fortunate enough to grab the rebound and come out with the win,” said Ahearn of the defensive stop.

The USA’s offensive showing was led by Thomas, who finished with 14 points. Lewis added 12 points and seven rebounds, Justin Dentmon (Texas Legends/Washington ’09) tallied 12 points and five assists, Sloan scored 11 and Leo Lyons (Austin Toros/Missouri ’09) finished with 10 points. Gregory Stiemsma (Sioux Falls Skyforce/Wisconsin ’09), tied a USA single game record for blocked shots with four, and added six points and two rebounds in 13 minutes of action.

The U.S. in the contest recorded a tournament best 19 assists, while being whistled for a tournament low seven turnovers. The Americans shot 48.5 percent from the field, and 34.8 percent from 3-point.

“It means a lot,” replied Sloan about what it meant to capture the bronze medal. “We came out here with one goal and that was to get gold but we fell a little short. We could have hung our heads low, but we came out and fought and went home with something. I think everyone came together when we needed it and we came out with the bronze medal.”

The bronze medal showing by the USA was the U.S. men’s first media in a Pan American Games since 1999 when that team also won silver. The Americans have now earned a medal in 13 of their 16 Pan Am Games appearances, including a record eight golds, as well as three silvers and two bronze. The U.S. men own an 87-15 (.851 winning percentage) all-time mark at the Pan Am Games.

In Sunday’s gold medal game, Puerto Rico guard Dallas Mavericks guard Jose Barea scored in the final seconds to lift Puerto Rico (4-1) to a 74-72 win over host Mexico (3-2).

LECOM