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MANNHEIM, Germany — The U.S. closed out its least successful run since 1971 in the biennial Albert Schweitzer International Youth Basketball Tournament on Saturday with its best game of the week, a 96-69 rout of Finland in the fifth-place game.

“They did a good job,” said U.S. coach Dick McCann, who saw his team finish outside the final four for the first time since he began coaching the American team here in 1973. “They’re tough kids.”

Memphis, Tenn., sophomore Thaddeus Young flashed a bit of star potential and led the Americans with 20 points. Young indicated he’d like to return to the tournament as a member of the 2006 U.S. team.

“It was a great experience,” he said. “I’m going to go home and work on my game.”

Tyrell Biggs, a junior from Ramsey, N.J., added 17 points; Kyle Lowry, a senior from Philadelphia, scored 14; and Brandon Costner (West Orange, N.J., junior), Ramon Sessions (Myrtle Beach, S.C., senior) and Freddie Stanback (Arlington, Va., senior) each had 10 points as the talented Americans took charge in the first half.

Ahead just 25-23 at the end of the first quarter, the Americans outscored the Finns 25-13 over the next 10 minutes. They expanded that bulge after halftime to close the tournament with a victory after consecutive losses to Serbia and Montenegro, 112-98, and Argentina, 90-89.

The U.S. finished out of the medals for the second straight time. The Americans were fourth in 2002, losing to Yugoslavia in the third-place game.

“It’s hard to get a team to gel in just two weeks,” U.S. assistant Dan D’Antoni said.

The U.S. placed 10th in 1971, the last time it fielded a team of exclusively DODDS-Europe players. McCann brought in a group from the States in 1973, winning the first of his 10 gold medals. The Americans last won this event in 1996.

“We can’t win just on talent alone anymore,” D’Antoni said. “With the improvement of the foreign teams, playing together year-round, chemistry is more important than talent. Our biggest problem is that all the high schools are different. Some play man-to-man, some play zone, some pressure, and getting kids from different systems into playing one system in two weeks is tough to do.”

Still, he added, “It was a great experience.”

Lowry, who tied for the scoring lead with Carlos Schattmann of Argentina at 20.2 points per game going into Saturday’s play, said he’ll take a lesson from the tournament with him next season to Villanova.

“I learned there are players out there who are just as hungry as I am,” he said. “They want to win as much as I do.”

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