USA rules FIBA Under-17
THE perennial powerhouse United States snared its fifth straight title with a 95-52 shellacking of France (6-1) in the championship game of the 2018 FIBA Under-17 Basketball World Cup held in Argentina.
The Americans have not lost a game since the inaugural staging of the biennial tournament in 2010, owning a 37-game winning streak to date, including a 7-0 finish in this year’s edition.
Two years ago, the Stars and Stripes squad blasted Turkey, 96-56, in the finals in Spain.
High-flying forward Jalen Green, an American with Filipino roots (Ilocos Sur), was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player with a team-best 15.7-point average.
Puerto Rico (5-2) beat Canada (5-2), 90-77, to settle for the bronze medal.
During the semifinals, the Americans shellacked Canada, 120-71, and France defeated Puerto Rico, 78-73.
Behind 7-foot-1, 16-year-old Kai Zachary Sotto’s 22 points, 10 rebounds and four shot blocks, the Philippines routed New Zealand, 73-51, to clinch 13th place overall in the 16-team competitions. It was sweet revenge for the youthful Filipinos, who dropped a 76-60 decision to their Kiwi counterparts in the third-place game of the 2018 FIBA Under-16 Asia Championship in Foshan, China last April.
China beat Egypt, 68-63, to rank 15th and avoid the cellar in the team standings.
The Filipinos thus finished with two straight wins following losses in their first five assignments – 97-75 Croatia, 95-54 France, 74-71 Argentina, 102-62 Canada (eighth-quarterfinals), and 95-59 Mali (consolation round) – for a 2-5 overall record.
During the classification round for 13th-to-16th places, New Zealand downed China, 62-57, while the youthful Pinoys picked up their first victory with a 70-69 win over Egypt behind Sotto’s 28 points, 17 boards and three blocks.
Sotto, a member of the reigning UAAP juniors champion Ateneo de Manila Blue Eaglets, averaged 16.4 points in seven appearances and ranked fifth in the tournament in rebounding with a 10.6 clip and was tied for third and fourth places in blocked shots at 2.3 a contest.
In the battle for fifth place, Turkey (5-2) beat Australia, 81-77. Croatia defeated Montenegro, 74-66, to take seventh spot. The Dominican Republic whipped Serbia, 82-77, for ninth place. Host Argentina settled for 11th place by edging Mali, 70-69.
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In the NBA, disgruntled Oklahoma City forward Carmelo Anthony and the Thunder are headed for a divorce. It could be via a trade (Melo owns a no-trade clause in the final year of his contract that is worth $27.9 million in 2018-19), a buyout or a waive-and-stretch scheme (his remaining salary may be stretched over several years to lower the Thunder’s cap hit).
Houston playmaker de luxe Chris Paul, who has agreed to stay with the Rockets during free agency for $160 million over four years, wants his close buddy Anthony to join him and reigning NBA Most Valuable Player James Harden in Texas.
The Rockets, who registered the best regular record in the NBA last campaign at 65-17, are looking for a replacement for starting forward Trevor Ariza, who defected to Phoenix on a one-year, free-agent deal worth $15 million. Miami and New York are also interested in Anthony’s services.
The Lakers’ erstwhile starting center Brook Lopez has agreed to a one-year deal with the Milwaukee Bucks. The 7-foot, 30-year-old Lopez will bankroll $3.4 million or the amount for the biannual cap exception.
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