15 - 23
July 2023
15 Lauren Betts (USA), 6 Caitlin Clark (USA), 12 Te-hina Paopao (USA), 4 Diamond Johnson (USA)
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Best of 2021 edition: Clark takes USA to ninth title and magical Mali make history

MIES (Switzerland) -The USA topped the podium for a ninth time with gold at the FIBA U19 Women's Basketball World Cup 2021, although the tournament will also be remembered for the historic rise of Mali.

The reigning champions defended the title they had re-claimed in Bangkok two years earlier by beating Australia 70-52, with host nation Hungary celebrating bronze against Mali who had made a fairytale run to the Semi-Finals for the first time.

The best team: USA

Rank Team W-L
1. USA 7-0
2. Australia 5-2
3. Hungary 5-2
4. Mali 4-3
5. Canada 4-3
6. Czech Republic 4-3
7. Spain 4-3
8. Russia 4-3
9. Japan 5-2
10. France 5-2
11. Italy 3-4
12. Egypt 1-6
13. Korea 3-4
14. Chinese Taipei 1-6
15. Argentina 2-5
16. Brazil 0-7

Taking place in Debrecen, Hungary, teams were drawn into four groups of four, with a single round-robin style competition. In what proved to be a highly competitive first phase, only USA, Russia and France emerged unscathed with unbeaten records.  Mali made everyone sit up and take notice with stunning wins against both Japan and Canada to reach the Round of 16.

Canada bounced back from the loss in style, by reaching the Quarter-Finals with a surprise win 79-72 against a disappointed France. Meanwhile Mali showed they were about to fly the flag for African basketball like nobody had done before with a one-sided 87-46 triumph against Korea.

The pair were joined in the last eight of the competition by the still unbeaten USA and Russia, plus Czech Republic, Spain, Australia and home favorites Hungary.

The fans in Debrecen were left happy when Hungary subsequently strode into the Semi-Finals by beating Czech Republic 78-71, although that was perhaps diluted by being paired in the bracket with USA who waltzed past Spain 98-64.

Having almost gone under the radar, Australia turned up the heat with a 72-61 win against Canada, but the limelight was firmly on Mali as they took a historic step in style by blasting past Russia 69-47.

The Semi-Finals showed the USA were effectively champions in waiting as they eased past Hungary 75-42, while Mali were undone 62-50 by Australia who set up a Final repeat with USA. 

Mali had a shot at more history when they tried to get their first ever medal, but hosts Hungary got it done 88-67 to take the bronze. That was largely down to a sparkling 25 points from Julia Boros and also 18 points and 6 assists from Reka Dombai in what proved to be an effective one-two punch throughout the competition. 

Meanwhile USA posted an unbeaten campaign by locking down the Sapphires 70-52 in the title game. It was a big team effort with a sharp-shooting 15 point display from Diamond Johnson impressing, while Caitlin Clark handed out 8 assists and Lauren Betts pulled down 14 rebounds.

The MVP: Caitlin Clark

Caitlin Clark had cause for a double celebration after she added to the joy of winning the FIBA U19 Women's Basketball World Cup title with her teammates by being named TISSOT MVP. She finished the tournament as the leading scorer for her country with 14.3 points per game, as well as averaging 5.3 rebounds and 5.6 assists.

It was also the second time Clark had won the competition, having appeared in Bangkok during 2021. She then showed her class by going on to make history by recording a first-ever 40-point triple-double in an NCAA tournament game - both men's and women's, when she propelled the Iowa Hawkeyes from the Elite Eight to the Final Four of the NCAA Tournament. Clark recorded 41 points on 11-19 shooting, handed out 12 assists, and grabbed 10 rebounds.

Clark was joined on the All-Star Five by teammate Sonia Citron, as well as Australia's Jade Melbourne, Julia Boros who helped Hungary take bronze and Sika Kone who was the centerpiece of Mali's spectacular run. 

The best game: Hungary head to the Semi-Finals

The hosts were under pressure in the Quarter-Finals due to high expectations having beaten Italy in the Round fo 16. The lure of making the last four and a serious shot at a medal was exciting but they faced a Czech Republic team who won their group and had waltzed past Brazil to make the Quarter-Finals.

It all boiled down to the last quarter and a one-shot game with 8 minutes to play, the hosts made their move and then had to hold their nerve in a compelling conclusion. They rode out 78-71 winners and sparked scenes of massive celebration.

The best story: Magic Mali making history 

It was not just the fact that Mali made history for themselves and for African basketball with their top four finish, it was also because they didn't just win games, they actually blew some people away. For example, 2017 winners Russia were dismantled brutally in the Quarter-Finals.

Sika Kone proved to be the marquee player and a tour de force on Hungarian soil, but this was not a one player story. For example, her namesake Fanta Kone had more assists per game than anyone else with 6.5 per outing. The sheer physicality and intensity of Mali was epic and they played amazing from start to finish, only just missing out on the podium.

The best performer: Sika Kone

While Caitlin Clark took MVP honors for catapulting USA to another gold, there was almost universal agreement that no player dominated and impressed quite like Sika Kone. The Mali forward terrorized just about every opposing defender she went up against and accumulated some truly eye-bulging numbers en-route to that incredible Semi-Final spot.

Kone finished as the leading scorer and rebounder in the competition with a staggering tournament double-double of 19.7 points and 14.8 rebounds per game. Then, a little over a year later, Kone found herself stepping out at the senior edition as she debuted for Mali at the FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup 2022 in Sydney, showing she could mix it with some of the best players around.

Stats leaders

Player (country) Points Per Game
Sika Kone (Mali) 19.7
Shayeann Day-Wilson (Canada) 18.1
Dominika Paurova (Czech Republic) 16.2
Olairi Kosu (Russia) 15.7
Julia Boros (Hungary) 15.0
Pauline Astier (France) 15.0
Player (country) Points Per Game
Sika Kone (Mali) 14.8
Olairi Kosu (Russia) 12.8
Lauren Betts (USA) 9.6
Yvonne Ejim (Canada) 9.4
Yara Hussein (EGY) 9.3
Player (country) Points Per Game
Fanta Kone (Mali) 6.5
Shayeann Day-Wilson (Canada) 5.7
Leila Lacan (France) 5.7
Caitlin Clark (USA) 5.6
Te-Hina Paopao  (USA) 4.6
Louise Bussiere (France) 4.4
Aoi Yamada (Japan) 4.4
Reka Dombai (Hungary) 4.3