KARLOVY VARY (2010 FIBA World Championship for Women) – Only one result was going to be acceptable for the United States in the Czech Republic at the FIBA World Championship for Women the past 11 days.
It was gold or bust for the Americans and their coach Geno Auriemma.
After another wonderful night in Karlovy Vary where fans cheered, booed and did everything that great crowds do, the United States went to the top of the podium to have gold medals hung around the necks.
They broke open a close game at the start of the second half and claimed an 89-69 victory.
“I thought the last couple of days at this tournament were truly unbelievable,” Auriemma said.
“You have probably the number two- and three-ranked teams in the world, Russia and Australia, and they get knocked out in the Quarter-Finals.
“I don’t think anyone could have predicted that.
“I thought the Czech team played with so much heart and so much passion and they’re so smart.
“Every time you make a mistake, they make a basket.”
The Czechs had set out to make the Quarter-Finals and did, but then shocked the Aussies and also edged Belarus in overtime to reach the Final.
Playing a much more physical style of basketball than usual and led by the dynamic duo of Eva Viteckova and Hana Horakova, the Czechs looked a real threat to the United States.
“I can’t tell you with how impressed I am with coach (Lubor Blazek) and his style of play,” Auriemma said.
“That was the best team we played in the entire tournament, without question.
“We’re fortunate to be world champions. I know my players worked really, really hard - to do it here, in the Czech Republic, against the Czech national team, in front of an unbelievable crowd.
“The crowd last night was incredible and tonight was just as good.
“I think it makes this win even more rewarding because of who we had to beat and where we had to beat them.”
The United States were so good and so balanced that everyone wondered which of their players might make the All-Star Five.
In the end, it was Diana Taurasi.
She was at her best early in the second half when the Americans took command.
“She never stops amazing me,” Auriemma said.
“There are things that Diana does on the basketball court that most people don’t even recognize.
“But I knew when that run was going to happen coming out of the locker room that she was going to be the one in charge.”
Taurasi finished with 16 points.
The USA ended up scoring 28 off fast breaks and that, more than anything, hurt the Czechs.
“The USA played well today on the fast breaks and they killed us with this,” Blazek said.
The way the Czech team and Czech crowd partied for the entire second half and after the game, it seemed their team had in fact played the best and won the gold.
“The silver medal is an awesome success for us,” Blazek said.
“I would like to congratulate Geno for the world title.
“The fact that we could have played against the USA in the Final is a pleasure for us.
“I am happy for the Czech Basketball Federation and for the fact that we finally put Czech basketball back to the position where it should be.”