The U.S. under-17 basketball team got its stiffest test since an 83-73 win over Greece to open the tournament, pulling away late to put away Serbia 89-68 in a semifinal game of the FIBA U17 World Championships Friday in Dubai.
The U.S. bolted out to a 17-7 lead in the first quarter, but Serbia kept chipping away, pulling even with 4:02 left in the first half at 28-28.
Diamond Stone from Milwaukee’s Dominican High School hit the second of two free throws to put Team USA back in front, but Stefan Peno answered with a 3-pointer as the shot clock expired to put Serbia up 31-29.
It was the first time the U.S. trailed in the tournament.
Devearl Ramsey of Los Angeles scored to put the U.S. back up 32-31 and Jayson Tatum of St. Louis followed with a 3-pointer to extend the lead to four.
Tyus Battle of Edison, N.J., hit a jumper near the end of the half to put the Americans up 39-36.
The U.S. finally took control with a 7-0 spurt in the third quarter—with five points coming from Terrence Ferguson of Flower Mound, Texas—to push the lead into double digits at 53-40.
Stone finished with 12 points, eight rebounds and two blocked shots in 25 minutes, but shot just 5-for-13 from the floor.
Shooting was a struggle for the Americans, though, as they were held to 38.5 percent for the game (30-for-78).Their defense, however, held Serbia to 30.9 percent (21-for-68).
Henry Ellenson of Rice Lake played only nine minutes and finished with two rebounds and no points, missing all three of his shots.
On Saturday, the U.S. will face Australia in a rematch of the 2012 U17 gold-medal game. Australia roared back from a 22-point deficit to beat Spain in overtime 80-74.