Girls Basketball: Betts, USA U16 team take FIBA gold medal in Chile

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PUERTO AYRES, CHILE | Lauren Betts and the USA U16 National Team had just a few short weeks to work on team chemistry before they headed to the FIBA Americas U16 Championship tournament.

The Grandview sophomore-to-be and her teammates took that little time and became a well-oiled machine, one that ran roughshod over five opponents en route to the USA’s fifth gold medal in six visits to the tournament.

Grandview sophomore-to-be Lauren Betts, third from left, and the USA U16 Women’s National Team celebrate after their victory over Canada to win the FIBA America’s U16 Championship on June 22, 2019, in Puerto Ayres, Chile. (Photo courtesy USA Basketball)

The 6-foot-7 Betts had her lowest output of points in Saturday’s championship against against Canada with six, but she pulled down 14 rebounds in the Americans’ decisive 87-37 victory over Canada at Poledeportivo.

“We were really just trying to make sure that we rebounded well,” Betts told USA Basketball. “That is was one of Canada’s biggest strengths. We really pressured well. We all worked together. We really wanted it, so we just made sure that we worked hard together as a team.”

For the tournament, Betts started all six games and averaged 13.5 rebounds per game — a USA U16 team record — and it helped her earn one of five spots on the FIBA U16 All-Tournament Team. She also averaged 12.2 points per contest and had at least one blocked shot in every game with a high of five set against Chile in a game in which she also had her highest point total (16) and rebound tally (16).

Teammates Payton Verhulst of Kansas — the tournament Most Valuable Player — along with New York’s Sonia Citron joined Betts as Americans to win the honor alongside Canada’s Isaline Alexander and Chile’s Fernanda Ovalle.

“I’m just so thankful for it,” Betts said. “To be playing against all of these awesome girls, and to be able to stand out like that and become all-tournament, that is really amazing.”

Not challenged on their path to the gold medal game, coach Mark Campbell’s USA team surged to a 24-2 lead over previously unbeaten Canada after just one period and kept its foot on the gas the whole way to the end. The Americans finished with an average margin of victory of 70.5 points per game.

As one of the top four teams (which also includes Canada, Chile and Puerto Rico), the USA team earn a spot for the country in the 2020 FIBA U17 World Cup tournament set to be played in Cluj-Napoca, Romania.

Courtney Oakes is Sentinel Colorado Sports Editor. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. IG: Sentinel Prep Sports

LAUREN BETTS FOR USA U16 TEAM IN FIBA U16 CHAMPIONSHIPS

Preliminary (vs. El Salvador, W 114-19): 12 points, 13 rebounds, 2 blocked shots; Preliminary (vs. Chile, W 109-44): 16 points, 16 rebounds, 5 blocked shots; Preliminary (vs. Mexico, W 98-33): 8 points, 14 rebounds, 2 blocked shots; Quarterfinals (vs. Brazil, W 107-32): 15 points, 14 rebounds, 4 blocked shots; Semifinals (vs. Puerto Rico, W 103-30): 16 points, 10 rebounds, 2 steals; Gold medal game (vs. Canada, W 87-37): 6 points, 14 rebounds