Team USA, who lost just one game here in Tokyo, came into the gold-medal match as rampaging favourites at the Aomi Urban Sports Park. And the Americans did not disappoint in the grand finale – beating the ROC team 18-15 in a hard-fought contest.
Kelsey Plum, of WNBA side Las Vegas Aces, scored early with a routine lay-up and the Americans never took their foot off the gas. Big center Stefanie Dolson (Chicago Sky) was dominant in the paint, grabbing rebounds and forcing turnovers throughout the game -- and even scoring a crucial (and rare for her) two-pointer to add to her team’s offensive output.
Dolson scored a team-high seven points (and went four-from-six with her free throws) as the ROC side got into foul trouble early, sending the Americans to free-throw line often. And despite their opponents pulling within three points, the Americans, led by the all-around brilliant play of Allisha Gray and Plum, ended the affair by keeping their cool and claiming a deserved victory as the clock ran out on the ROC team’s admirable fight-back.
"I'm so proud of this team and myself too. We fought so hard to get here and it wasn't always easy and we're really happy with what we've done," said Dolson, whose dominance on the court in the final saw the Americans keep the lead from start to finish. "It gives me goosebumps [winning gold]. It's special to be the first of anything but basketball runs deep in American blood, so this is very special."
"I was on vacation when I got the call, so it's been a wild ride," said Jackie Young, who was called in on the eve of the Games to replace Katie Lou Samuelson who tested positive for COVID-19. "But I'm so happy to have been a part of this."
Gray was also thrilled with the result and the historic achievement: "This is for my parents who sacrificed so much for me and supported me all the way."
Bronze delight for PR China
Earlier in the day, in the bronze-medal match of these Tokyo Games, the People’s Republic of China shocked world number-one ranked team France 16-14 to earn a place on the edge of the sport’s first-ever Olympic podium.
The Chinese, the youngest team left in the final four of the women’s 3x3 competition, pressed the French with suffocating defense throughout the contest, never letting the European champions get into their usually potent offensive groove.
Mamignan Toure, strong throughout the game, forced a late Chinese turnover, giving France the ball with just seconds on the clock and a chance to tie the game (and send it to extra-time). But it wasn’t to be as, once again, the Chinese team’s lock-down defense proved too strong and Marie-Eve Paget threw her pass out of bounds to give the Asians the final possession of the game.
“The game was very tough. It was up and down all game long, but we managed to be on top in the end,” said the outstanding Lili Wang who scored nine points on the night for the bronze-medal winners, going two-from-six beyond the two-point line.
"We’re very excited, because we’ve won the bronze medal at the first time that 3x3 basketball has been in Olympics," she added. "It’s more than we expected.”