U.S. wins first women’s hoops 3-on-3 gold medal

Japan 2020

United States’ Kelsey Plum celebrates victory over Russian Olympic Committee in a women’s 3-on-3 gold medal basketball game at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Wednesday, July 28, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

 

TOKYO (AP) — Their scrapbooks and trophy cases are filled with memories from Final Fours, national titles, All-America honors and even some impressive showings in the pros.

Now, they all have Olympic gold medals to go with all that.

The U.S. team of Stefanie Dolson, Allisha Gray, Kelsey Plum and Jackie Young took an early lead against the team from Russia, then held on for an 18-15 victory Wednesday to win the title in the debut of 3-on-3 basketball at the Olympics.

Later on Wednesday, Russia played Latvia for the men’s title. Bronze medals went to China’s women and Serbia’s men.

Much as they did in the final, the Americans dominated through most of the five-day tournament. They played nine games and only lost one. Plum, the all-time leading scorer in NCAA history, led the way in this one, as well, scoring 55 points over the nine games. She scored all five of her points in the final early to stake the U.S. to a lead it never relinquished.

All four players are in the midst of successful WNBA careers. Of the four, Plum is the only one who didn’t win a national title in college. This seems like much more than a consolation prize.

When it was over, she got in a hug huddle with her teammates, then they made it over to the stands for a visit with IOC President Thomas Bach.

U.S. First Lady Jill Biden was at the Aomi Urban Sports Park for the opener last weekend.

Yes, this foursome, which came together only over the past couple of months and overcame the late loss of Katie Lou Samuelson to a positive COVID-19 test, are part of the see-and-be-seen crowd in Tokyo.

Time will tell if this sport turns into one of the cool kids on the Olympic program. Even with no fans in the stands, they sure are trying hard.

With a DJ spinning records and a cheeky announcer calling play-by-play — “Izzzzzz goooodddd!” — the players were greeted during pre-game introductions by a Japanese percussion team featuring a 5-foot-5 guy wailing on a massive Taiko drum.

The game? Not nearly as free-flowing as advertised, and the closer teams got to medals, the more things tightened up.

Dolson, the 6-foot-5 forward, took a nasty elbow to the face about two-thirds into this game but recovered quickly. She ended up making four free throws — yes, those exist in this version of the half-court game — and the U.S. scored eight of its 18 points in this game from the line.

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