After outscoring its first three opponents in the event by an average margin of 64 points per game, the USA was down 18-17 with under two minutes remaining in the first quarter against Puerto Rico.
But Ivan Rabb
of Bishop O'Dowd (Oakland, Calif.)
and tournament MVP candidate Malik Newman
of Callaway (Jackson, Miss.)
sparked the American squad to a decisive 21-0 run that began late in the opening quarter.
"We knew Puerto Rico was going to play that way," USA U16 head coach Don Showalter said. "Give them a lot of credit. They have the makings of being a pretty good team, I don't think they have the depth, but they have guys who can make shots."
The United States will meet Argentina – a one-point winner over Canada in Friday's other semifinal – on Saturday in the gold medal game. The USA also beat Argentina for gold in the 2009 and 2011 FIBA Americas U16 Championship finals.
Rabb, a 6-foot-9 rising junior forward, tallied 19 points, 14 rebounds, three steals and two blocked shots to lead the USA against Puerto Rico.
"I came out with 14 rebounds and tomorrow I just want to do the same thing for the gold medal game, take all the rebounds away from the other team," Rabb said of his dominance on the glass.
Newman, who entered the contest averaging 22 points per game in Uruguay, chipped in with 13 points and five rebounds. The Mississippi guard helped build momentum during the game's key run with a steal followed by a statement dunk.
Adding to the USA's advantage down low was 6-9, 250-pound Diamond Stone
of Dominican (Whitefish Bay, Wis.)
, who recorded 19 points and eight rebounds. Joshua Jackson
of Consortium College Prep (Detroit)
and Thomas Bryant
of Bishop Kearney (Rochester, N.Y.)
also reached double figures in the scoring column with 13 and 11 points, respectively.
Ivan Gandia Rosa, a 15-year old point guard, led Puerto Rico with 21 points – the highest total for any player against the United States in the event.
Under head coach Don Showalter, the USA is now 14-0 in the FIBA Americas U16 Championship dating back to 2009 and 32-0 in all U16/U17 competitions since that date.Fore more information on the United States U16 National Team, visit USABasketball.com.
The United States advanced to the gold medal game at the FIBA Americas U16 Championship for Men in Uruguay with a 93-64 win Friday over Puerto Rico.