The Chinese women's team snatched down the first victory over the United States, winning 84-81 in Saturday's final of the international women's basketball tournament in Beijing.
Neither of China's men's or women's national team has ever beaten the U.S. in any international tournaments before Saturday's victory, which boosted the host for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games after the two were drawn in Group B of the women's basketball competition at the Olympic Games.
China won the gold medal of the six-nation tournament, recording five wins against one loss.
In previous matches, world champion Australia won the bronze after beating Cuba 65-61, while South Korea beat New Zealand 70-67 in the 5th-6th match.
Center Chen Xiaoli grabbed a crucial offensive rebound with 12.8 seconds left and made one free-throw after throw-in.
Katie Smith's 3-pointer with 1:11 minutes to go cut the deficit to 83-81 before Lisa Leslie, who had 10 points and 10 rebounds, watched her long-rang attempt falling short as the game-ending buzzer whistled.
"It's wonderful to beat the U.S. It's a moral thing, letting us to believe we can play against top teams. They don't lose very often," China's coach Tom Maher said.
China lost 86-61 to the three-time Olympic champion in the preliminary round on Thursday.
"You cannot be intimidated when you face the U.S. They are big and quick, but if we defend well, employ what you've learned from training, we can play against top athletes," Maher said.
Guard Miao Lijie had the game-high 26 points and eight rebounds for China, while Chen Nan had 15 points and Chen Xiaoli 12 points and six rebounds.
"The victory gave us lots of confidence," Miao said. "We've had good workouts in the past two days. We showed our strength in the game. Maybe we are not strong enough (to win the Olympics), but we are improving greatly."
China built up a clear 47-39 lead after the first half, but let the U.S. turn the table around to lead 63-61 after three quarters.
Four 3-pointers were made in a 18-6 run to give the host a 79-72 lead with 3:53 minutes to go.
Guard Bian Lan scored seven out of her nine points to help China score 12 straight points without answer in that period.
"Our defence was not as good as the other night. You cannot win a match when you give up 84 points. It's too much," said Smith, who had 16 points. Sylvia Fowles adding 14 points and eight rebounds for the U.S.
"It's okey we didn't shoot the ball well, but there were problems in our defence. We couldn't contain their penetrations. You must give credit to the Chinese team. They came out very aggressively though they lost 25 points the other night," U.S. coach Anne Donovan said.
Miao scored 17 points in the first half, shooting 7-out-of-8 in the field, to help China lead as many as 12 points.
The U.S. dominated the board, as usual, by 42-26, but lost on turnovers and free-throws.
(Xinhua April 27, 2008)