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Candace Parker leads U.S. women to fifth straight Olympic basketball gold medal

Sue Bird celebrates a basket against France during

Sue Bird celebrates a basket against France during the women's gold medal basketball game at the 2012 Summer Olympics. (Aug. 11, 2012) Credit: AP

LONDON -- The names change, not the results. Just call the U.S. women's basketball team Olympic champion.

The Americans won their fifth straight gold medal Saturday, routing France, 86-50, and putting more distance between themselves and the rest of the world heading to Rio for the 2016 Games.

Candace Parker scored 21 points, including eight straight during the game-changing run in the second quarter as Team USA won its 41st straight Olympic game since a bronze in 1992.

In that stretch, the Americans have won by nearly 30 points a game. Only one team has stayed within single digits of them, and they've lost just once in major international competitions -- to Russia in the semifinals of the 2006 world championship.

Teresa Edwards, Dawn Staley, Sheryl Swoopes and Lisa Leslie got the amazing run started and now Diana Taurasi, Sue Bird and Tamika Catchings have continued it.

With young stars Parker, Maya Moore and Tina Charles a big part of the success in London, it doesn't look like the run will end anytime soon.

Tamika Catchings said the Americans "just wanted to keep that legacy going."

"The legacy is real," said Edwards, a five-time Olympian. "What these kids have been doing is amazing. Without much time to practice. In the middle of the WNBA season. And they look good. It's like the whole world knows who we are. I'm really proud of them. They're definitely among some of the best" U.S. teams.

Team USA faced its only challenge of the London Games when Australia took a four-point halftime lead in the semifinals. It was the first time in 12 years that the Americans had been trailing at the half. There was no panic or worry. They just stepped up their defense and vanquished the Australians, winning by 13 points.

"It's not easy to just be put together and be expected to win a gold medal," Taurasi said. "It's a special feeling."

France, which came into the gold-medal game unbeaten, stayed with the United States for the first 12 minutes before Parker took over. She scored eight straight points during a 13-2 run that made it 37-23. Twice the 6-4 Parker rebounded on the defensive end and dribbled up through the defense to score on the other end.

While Parker was providing the offense, the Americans turned up their defense, holding France to just one basket in the final 7:25 of the half.

"We always felt like as long as we played our best . . . we'd be all right," Bird said.

The U.S. team led by 12 at the half and poured it on in the third quarter. On one sequence, Catchings got a steal, passed it to Bird, who hit Moore in perfect stride for a finger-roll lay-in down the lane.

Moore is just the seventh player to win titles in college, the WNBA, the FIBA world championship and the Olympics. Teammates Bird, Taurasi, and Swin Cash are already members of the club.

New York Sports