July 19, 2015
NOTE: Fighting Irish Media is on hand in Toronto this week and is offering bonus on-site social media coverage for the Pan Am semifinals and medal games on Sunday and Monday. Notre Dame is believed to be the only American university that has a media presence at the 2015 Pan Am Games, with all Notre Dame-related coverage from the event – including exclusive interviews with Taya Reimer and Natalie Achonwa – available through the Fighting Irish women’s basketball Twitter pages (@NDsidMasters or @ndwbb) and the women’s basketball program’s Facebook page (facebook.com/ndwbb).
TORONTO — No matter which side you choose to support in Monday’s Pan American Games title contest (8:45 p.m. ET on ESPNU and ESPN3), the University of Notre Dame women’s basketball program is guaranteed to be as good as gold.
Junior forward Taya Reimer (Fishers, Ind./Hamilton Southeastern) led USA Basketball to its first Pan Am gold medal final since 2007 with a narrow 65-64 semifinal victory over Cuba on Sunday afternoon at the Ryerson Athletic Centre in Toronto. Team USA has won seven Pan Am golds and now has reached the final 12 times in the 15 tournaments since women’s basketball was added to the competition in 1955.
“We knew Cuba was going to be a really good team,” Reimer said. “They played Canada really tough the other day and we knew it was going to be a challenge. We’re just glad that we could get the win and move on to the gold medal game.”
Hours later, former All-America forward and reigning WNBA Rookie of the Month Natalie Achonwa (’14) joined Reimer in Monday’s finale, collecting four points and two rebounds to help the host Canadian National Team to a 91-63 win over Brazil in Sunday’s second semifinal. Canada will make its second appearance in the Pan Am gold medal game, having advanced to the final in 1999 — coincidentally, the last time the competition was held in Canada — before falling to Cuba in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
“We’re really excited to be in the final, especially here on home soil,” Achonwa said. “It’s great that we were able to accomplish our goal (reaching the gold medal game). Now we play the U.S. and we’ll need to play hard, physical and intense and look to come out with a win.”
Reimer has started all four games for Team USA at this year’s Pan Am Games, averaging 5.5 points and 3.8 rebounds per night. She seeks her third USA Basketball gold medal (and fourth overall), having previously helped the USA to top honors at the 2011 FIBA Americas U16 Championship and the 2012 FIBA U17 World Championship. She also garnered an honorary bronze medal with the 2011 USA Basketball 3×3 Youth Team that had to forfeit its third-place game at the FIBA Youth World Cup (now the 3×3 U18 World Championship) due to injury.
Meanwhile, Achonwa looks to add her first gold medal to a blossoming international medal collection that already includes two silvers and a bronze. The current rookie forward for the WNBA’s Indiana Fever nabbed a silver medal with Team Canada at the 2008 FIBA Americas U18 Championship and 2013 FIBA Americas Championship, as well as the bronze medal for Canada at the 2009 FIBA Americas Championship.
After sitting out Canada’s first contest at the Pan Am Games to rest her surgically-repaired knee, Achonwa has come alive in the past three contests, averaging 8.0 points and 4.3 rebounds per game, including team highs of 15 points and seven rebounds in Saturday’s preliminary-round win over Cuba.
Either Reimer or Achonwa will earn the 15th international gold medal by a Notre Dame women’s basketball player, including the 12th in the past six years. All told, the Fighting Irish have developed 18 international basketball veterans, and counting Monday’s guaranteed twin medals, Notre Dame women’s basketball alums will have collected a total of 29 medals (15 gold) during the program’s 38-year history.
Two Fighting Irish freshmen have or hope to have a hand in contributing to that count. In June, rookie guard Arike Ogunbowale (Milwaukee, Wis./Divine Savior Holy Angels) earned a silver medal with the USA 3×3 Under-18 World Championship Team in Debrecen, Hungary. Now, classmate and backcourt partner Ali Patberg (Columbus, Ind./Columbus North) is off and running with Team USA at the FIBA U19 World Championship in Chekhov, Russia.
Patberg is averaging 5.5 rebounds and 2.0 steals per game as the USA Basketball squad rolled to wins over Spain (72-57) and China (88-62) in its first two preliminary contests at the tournament. The Americans will wrap up group play at 1:15 p.m. (ET) Tuesday against Egypt (watch live online at YouTube.com/FIBA) before turning their attention to the knockout rounds (pairings and broadcast coverage are pending).
For more information on the Notre Dame women’s basketball program, sign up to follow the Fighting Irish women’s basketball Twitter pages (@NDsidMasters or @ndwbb), like the program on Facebook (facebook.com/ndwbb) or register for the Irish ALERT text-messaging system through the “Fan Center” pulldown menu on the front page at UND.com.
For added coverage of the Pan Am Games and FIBA U19 World Championships, visit the official web sites for USA Basketball (usab.com), Canada Basketball (basketball.ca), the Pan Am Games (toronto2015.org) and FIBA (fiba.com) — the latter two sites also will provide live stats for all games in their respective tournaments.
2015 Pan Am Games — Schedule/Results
All times Eastern – games played in Toronto, Ontario (Ryerson Athletic Centre)
Monday, July 20 (medal round finals)
8:45 p.m. — Gold medal game (ESPNU/ESPN3)
2015 FIBA U19 World Championship — Schedule/Results
All times Eastern — USA group games played in Chekhov, Russia (some non-USA games played in Vidnoje, Russia)
Saturday, July 18 (group play)
USA 72, Spain 57 (Ali Patberg – 5 rebs/3 stls/2 asst)
Sunday, July 19 (group play)
USA 88, China 62 (Ali Patberg — 6 rebs/1 stl)
Monday, July 20 (OFF DAY)
Tuesday, July 21 (group play)
1:15 p.m. — USA vs. Egypt (YouTube.com/FIBA)
Wednesday, July 22 (round of 16)
Thursday, July 23 (OFF DAY)
Friday, July 24 (medal/classification quarterfinals)
Saturday, July 25 (medal/classification semifinals)
Sunday, July 26 (medal/classification finals)
Times, locations and broadcast coverage to be determined following group play.
— Chris Masters, Athletics Communications Associate Director