Written By Alex Burstein
The Maccabiah USA U18 Girls’ Basketball Team has had just about two weeks of practice together. But to anyone watching them, you wouldn’t know.
“I mean we are just friends off and on the court, so I think the chemistry that we have really shows on the court,” Lexi Harris, a rising senior in high school and Washington University in St. Louis commit, said. “You can see us passing the ball well and we just can read each other so well.”
That chemistry was on full display Friday morning at Romema Arena in Haifa, as America, led by Harris with 26 points, rolled past Canada 96-19.
While Harris being the tallest player on the court by a couple of inches was a big advantage for the Americans. “Being the tallest out there definitely helps,” she said.
“Lexi’s a terrific inside player and we have shooters on the outside. … So you know our goal is to learn how to work as a unit and get the best shot possible for the team, and I thought the girls did a fantastic job of that today,” Head Coach Ellen Mager said following the win.
Harris, a rising senior in high school and Washington University in St. Louis commit, says the strong passing leads to strong shooting.
“We did the extra pass,” she said. “If we had a good shot, one more pass made it a great shot. And we got the ball in the hoop.”
As the lead grew for the US, the team got to highlight some aspects of its game beyond shooting.
It started with a paint defense that suffocated the Canadian offense, holding them to 19 points overall and just four points in the fourth quarter.
“We’re just working hard to keep people in front of us and confess shots,” Mager said. “It’s hard for us. We’ve never been involved with international play before. So we’re learning as we go.”
International play, which allows for more physicality for players, also added a new twist for the US roster: a 24-second shot clock, which the US used to burn time in the second half.
“I think we’re learning how to play fast and slow [with the shot clock],” Mager said. “So I thought the girls did a great job and they also shot the ball really, really well today. We were fortunate.”
Now the United States heads into what very well could be its toughest matchup of the tournament.
“We know we’re gonna [get] a big challenge on Sunday against Israel because we know how good they are,” Mager said.
Despite the dominating win over Canada and an 82-10 win over Germany earlier in the week, Harris thinks the team should focus on perfecting the basics heading into the rest of the Maccabiah.
“Just still playing good defense and sticking to the fundamentals [is important],” Harris said. “Not rushing the ball, working on our plays and just making sure that we have them right.”
Tip-off is set for 7pm for the U.S. (2-0) and Israel (1-0) on Sunday sat Romema Hall.