High School Basketball

Meridian black and gold helps bring home basketball silver

Meridian’s Ellesse FitzGerald, left, and Ryley Zapien recently returned from Austria after representing the United States in the United World Games as part of the Student Athlete World USA U19 West Girls’ basketball team.
Meridian’s Ellesse FitzGerald, left, and Ryley Zapien recently returned from Austria after representing the United States in the United World Games as part of the Student Athlete World USA U19 West Girls’ basketball team. Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

A pair of Meridian girls’ basketball players got a chance to represent the United States earlier this month at the United World Games 2016 in Klagenfurt, Austria, and ended up bringing home a silver medal from the trip.

Ryley Zapien and Ellesse FitzGerald were selected to the Student Athlete Worlds U19 West Girls’ basketball team and got to represent their country June 13-22.

Zapien, who led the Trojans with 10.9 points per game last year as a junior, and FitzGerald, who was third for Meridian with 10.3 points per game as a sophomore, helped earn their spots on the team by participating in a basketball camp at Stanford the past couple of summers. Last summer the duo got to play on the same team and earned a combined all-star and Cardinal (leadership) award, helping catch the eye of those selecting the team to head to the United World Games.

The U.S. sent three teams in all — a U16 team and two U19 squads — for an event that also allowed Zapien and FitzGerald an opportunity to play with some of the best young girls’ basketball players in the country and to spend downtime touring parts of Austria and Germany.

On the court, the USA West squad beat teams from Zimbabwe and Hungary in their first two outings but lost a seeding game to a team from Vienna, Austria. That set a seeding game against the USA East squad, and the West came out on top, 50-48, sending the West to the championship game against the host Austrians. Austria ended up winning the game, but Zapien, FitzGerald and their teammates earned the silver.

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