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U.S. women in finals

Orange County Register

ATHENS, Greece --The core of the U.S. women's basketball dynasty is in the process of passing the torch.

Today, the rest of the team had no choice but to pass the veterans the ball.

Pushed hard by Russia, the Americans relied on two late shots by Sheryl Swoopes to salvage a 66-62 semifinal victory.

They bid for their third consecutive gold medal Saturday against Australia, who bounced Brazil out of the semifinals, 88-75, and is also unbeaten in this tournament.

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Swoopes, 33, hit an18-footer and a baseline shot to push the U.S. to a 64-58 lead. A subsequent basket by Tamika Catchings made it an eight-point edge with 2:38 left.

"I've seen her do this for seven years," coach Van Chancellor said of Swoopes, whom he coaches for the Houston Comets of the WNBA. "She makes every big play, every big shot, when you need it. She's been telling me I've been riding her all these years, and I guess she's right."

Lisa Leslie, 32, also contributed 11 points and seven rebounds, and Tina Thompson, 29, added 14. Those two important shot by Swoopes were her only hoops of the game.

"She'd already missed more shots than she normally does so I figured she wouldn't miss any more," Chancellor said.

"I couldn't throw the ball into the Mediterranean or the Atlantic or whatever they call that sea they've got here," said Swoopes, who, like the rest of the U.S. team, is bunking at the Queen Mary during the Olympics.

The Russians ran a deliberate offense and a zone defense that slowed down the U.S. squad, which had been romping through the tournament as usual. The Americans' closest victory had been by 13 points, and Russia had lost to Australia by 19.

The U.S. never lost the lead after the second possession of the second quarter.

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