SERBIA -- The 2007 USA Basketball U19 World Championship Team (8-1) gave it all they had, but missed 13 free throws during the game and eventually fell host Serbia (8-1) 74-69 in the 2007 FIBA U19 World Championship gold medal game on Sunday night in Novi Sad, Serbia. Deon Thompson (North Carolina / Torrance, Calif.) finished as the USA’s leading scorer for the second time in as many nights with 16 points, Patrick Beverley (Arkansas / Chicago, Ill.) scored 15 to go with a team-high eight rebounds and four steals, while Raymar Morgan (Michigan State / Canton, Ohio) checked in for 10 points.
France (6-3) took the bronze medal with a 75-67 victory over Brazil (4-5).
The U.S. now owns a 53-11 record in all-time FIBA U19 World Championship play, as well as a record three gold medals (1979, 1983, 1991) and three silvers (1987, 1999, 2007) in eight U19 Worlds.
"They have an outstanding team. They’re strong, they’re very big and they play very good defense," said USA and DePaul University head coach Jerry Wainwright. "We obviously lost the game at the free throw line. We had been shooting very well at the free throw line. By the nature of the draw and by some upsets we had some very tough games coming into this game. Yesterday’s game against France was a very difficult game and I think it drained us. We played a little bit tighter today, we just didn’t have the energy we usually have. We faltered at the free throw line, that has been a strength and certainly that hurt us because we missed 13 free throws in a five-point game. But rather than say anything about what we did, I commend Serbia, their players, their coaches."
"This is a big accomplishment, a lot of people didn’t expect us to be here," said Jonny Flynn (Niagara Falls H.S. / Niagara Falls, N.Y.), who averaged 9.6 ppg. in the USA’s nine games. "If you look at the big picture, this is second in the whole world, not just in any old tournament. This is second in the whole world. I learned a lot from this trip to Serbia and I’ll miss the guys, the coaching staff, coach Wainwright showed my a lot, coach Flint, coach Hobbs, I learned a lot. I’m going to take a lot to Syracuse with that. I’m going to miss this whole experience."
The U.S. found itself in a similar situation as in the semifinal game against France, down 11-2 in the game’s opening minutes. The USA couldn’t get into a rhythm offensively and despite tenacious defense that forced Serbia to run down the shot clock, the hosts managed to get shot after shot off. During the second quarter Serbia strung together nine straight points to expand its lead to 42-23 with 3:19 to play. However, the USA never gave up and closed the gap to 43-30 by halftime.
Working non-stop to cut the deficit in the third quarter, the USA at 2:37 trailed by four, 51-47. However, the Serbian squad rallied for six points to put a 57-47 stamp on the period.
Still refusing to concede, Thompson scored six points in a USA 8-3 run to stab back to 60-55 with 7:42 remaining. The Americans nabbed a few steals as it continued its valiant comeback attempt and with 3:25 to play the red, white and blue was down by just three points, 65-62. Serbia came back with a three at 3:02 and continued to fight off any U.S. charge and with 42 ticks on the clock held a 70-64 advantage. Stephen Curry (Davidson / Charlotte, N.C.) hit a three and Beverley got a layup in the final 10 seconds, but Serbia hit all of its four tries from the stripe down the stretch and time expired with the hosts on top 74-69.
The USA, which went 11-of-24 from the stripe for 45.8 percent, was edged on the glass 38-33.
Mladen Jeremic was his team’s leading scorer with 24 points, 2007 FIBA U19 World Championship MVP Milan Macvan finished with 19 and Stefan Stojacic scored 14.
Several USA U19 World Championship Team records fell or were tied during the tournament. In single game action, David Lighty (Ohio State / Cleveland, Ohio) and DeAndre Jordan (Bellaire Episcopal H.S. / Humble, Texas) each tied Brent Scott’s high field goal percentage set with 8-of-8 versus Japan in 1991. Lighty went 8-of-8 against Lithuania (7/16/07) and Jordan connected on all eight attempts versus Mali (7/12/07). Jordan also tied Samaki Walker’s U.S. record of four blocked shots against Mali. Walker had his four against Greece in 1995. The team tied the previous high for free throw percentage set in 2003 against Lithuania after shooting 92.3 percent (12-13 Fts) from the line against France (7/21/07) and tied the USA team record for blocked shots, originally set in 1995 against Greece, with 10 against Mali.
In overall tournament action Thompson is now ranked first among all-time USA blocked shots leaders with 13, while Beverley eclipsed the former USA steals mark of 20 set by Buck Johnson in 1983 with 31 and also moved up to No. 4 (tie) respectively on the USA’s all-time assists chart with 29. The team’s 843 point total eclipsed thee 742 scored in 1991, the 320 field goals made surpassed the 292 set in 1983, the squad shattered the previous steals record of 104 with 138, and set a new rebounding record with 374, 10 more than were grabbed in 2003.
Australia (8-1) finished in fifth place after beating Argentina (4-5) 83-59 and Turkey (4-5) took seventh with an 80-69 win over Spain (4-5).
Wainwright, who served as an assistant for the 2006 USA U18 National Team, is heading up the 2007 USA U19 World Championship Team coaching staff, and collegiate head coaches Bruiser Flint of Drexel University (Pa.) and George Washington University’s (D.C.) Karl Hobbs are serving as assistant coaches.