Notre Dame rising sophomore guard Melissa Lechlitner and her United States teammates will play Sweden in the U19 World Championships gold medal game Sunday at 2:15 p.m. ET in Bratislava, Slovakia.

Lechlitner, USA Edge Spain, 74-66 At U19 World Championships

July 31, 2007

Box Score (PDF)

BRATISLAVA, Slovakia — Notre Dame rising sophomore guard Melissa Lechlitner (Mishawaka, Ind./South Bend St. Joseph’s) and her United States teammates survived a stern challenge from Spain before coming away with a 74-66 victory in a Group E second-round game at the FIBA U19 World Championships on Tuesday at NTC Arena in Bratislava, Slovakia. Lechlitner had one assist and one steal in 16 minutes of action as the USA (5-0) remained one of four unbeaten teams at this year’s tournament.

Jantel Lavender paced the Americans for the second consecutive game with game highs of 28 points and 13 rebounds, while Maya Moore chipped in 19 points, but they were the only two USA players to score in double figures. The red, white and blue was held to its lowest point total to date at the 2007 U19 World Championships, while also shooting .390 from the floor (30-of-77) and owning a slim 50-49 rebounding margin. Spain (3-2) gave the United States its second tough game in 10 days (following a 79-71 loss at the Pre-U19 World Championship Tournament on July 21 in the Canary Islands), but once again came up short, despite a team-high 18 points from Alba Torrens.

Tuesday’s game was a dogfight from the opening tip, with the USA firing the first shot after an 8-1 run resulted in a 19-9 lead a little more than five minutes into the game. Spain charged right back and used a 9-0 spurt of its own, taking a 25-23 lead on two foul shots by Laura Herrera with 7:41 left in the second quarter. The U.S. answered with 10 of the next 12 points and appeared poised to take the lead at halftime, leading 37-32 with less than a minute to play in the period. However, Moore then twice fouled Anna Carbo in the act of shooting, once on a three-pointer, and Carbo canned all five free throws to bring Spain level at the break.

The Spaniards continued their rally in the second half, scoring the first five points and taking a 42-37 lead on Torrens’ three-pointer with 39 seconds gone in the third quarter. The momentum then flipped back to the United States, which pieced together a 9-1 run to regain a three-point lead just past the midway point of stanza. Again, Spain countered and pulled even at 52-52 after three quarters when Tamara Abalde sank the second of two foul shots with 36 seconds left.

An early three-pointer by Spain’s Jael Freixanet put her side in front in the final quarter, before the Americans battled back, eventually taking the lead for good at 63-61 on Jasmine Thomas’ three-pointer with 4:15 to go. The U.S. then forced Spain into four consecutive missed shots, while Thomas added another bucket, before Abalde’s triple got the Europeans back within a point at the 2:13 mark. The margin was still one possession (68-66) after Torrens’ layup with a minute left, but the Spain star fouled out 19 seconds later and Lavender knocked the ensuing two free throws to finally put the Spaniards down for the count.

The road doesn’t get any easier for the United States, as it wraps up second-round play in Group E Wednesday at noon ET (6 p.m. in Bratislava) against the host country, Slovakia (5-0). The Slovakians had their own scare on Tuesday, slipping by China, 66-61, to keep their ledger unblemished (along with fellow 5-0 clubs Serbia and Australia). Live in-progress statistics from all games at the 2007 FIBA U19 World Championships can be found at the tournament’s official web site.

— ND —