Ajavon Spurs U.S. Women's Basketball Team to First Gold Since 1987

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Matee Ajavon scored 24 second-half points yesterday to help the United States defeat host Brazil, 79-66, and win its first Pan American Games women's basketball title since 1987.

The United States, playing with a team of experienced college players, hadn't won the gold since the Indianapolis Games. It was coming off a second-place finish to Cuba at the 2003 Pan Am Games in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

The United States took the lead for good with 8 minutes 43 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter. It led by eight points halfway through the quarter before finishing with the 13-point advantage.

At the end, the American players on the bench were jumping for joy with each shot their teammates made on the floor, while the big crowd fell silent as the final seconds ticked off.

"Brazil has a good team and had the crowd behind them, so we had to do something," said Ajavon, who led all scorers with 27 points.

The Americans are the winningest team at the Pan Am Games with seven titles, and have never finished off the podium. Brazil was trying to win its fourth Pan Am gold and first since 1991 in Havana. It was coming off a third-place finish in Santo Domingo.

The game, in front of 13,200 fans at Multisport Arena, marked the farewell of 38-year-old Janeth Arcain, who helped the Houston Comets dominate the WNBA with four straight titles (1997-2000) in the league's early years. Arcain is retiring after a 21-year career highlighted by a world championship with Brazil in 1994 and a silver medal at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.

Arcain began playing for Brazil's national youth teams in 1986.

The crowd chanted Arcain's name several times and some held banners saying "Don't go, Janeth" and "Thank you, Janeth." She scored 14 points.

Cuba, which won the previous two Pan Am titles, beat Canada, 62-49, to win the bronze medal.

ยท MODERN PENTATHLON: Eli Bremer earned the U.S. team a spot in the Beijing Olympics by winning with 5,380 points. Bremer won the swim and was fourth in fencing, keying his overall victory. He also was 7th in the run, 8th in equestrian and 10th in shooting.

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