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US women's basketball wins fourth straight gold

Aug. 23, 2008, 2:03 p.m. (ET)

BEIJING (AP) Lisa Leslie stood on the medal stand one last time, smiling ear to ear and swaying while belting out the national anthem with her four gold medals hanging around her neck.

The fitting ending to the perfect Olympic career.

"I just decided it would be great to bring them with me," Leslie said. "My vision and my dream was to have four gold medals around my neck by the time we finished the last game here in Beijing."

Leslie scored 14 points in the U.S. women's basketball team's 92-65 victory against Australia on Saturday night. She finished her Olympic career 32-0, and joined former teammate Teresa Edwards as the only basketball players ever to win four gold medals.

"To have four gold medals obviously shows a level of dominance I've been able to participate in with so many great players," the 36-year-old Leslie said. "It would be shameful to try to take all the credit for myself because I've had so many awesome teammates.

"So for me, I just pass that on to my teammates that are going on in the future to represent our country."

Candace Parker, Leslie's WNBA teammate with the Los Angeles Sparks, said, "We weren't going to be the team to let Lisa lose. We wouldn't let her Olympic career end that way."

When Leslie received her last medal she held up two fingers on each hand to signify her accomplishment. Holding up the No. 4 is considered bad luck in China.

The Aussies have now lost to the Americans in the gold medal game in the past three Olympics with each coming by double-digit margins.

Australia felt this was its best shot to beat the Americans. Penny Taylor and Erin Phillips missed the first half of the WNBA season so that they could train for the Beijing Games. Lauren Jackson, who led Australia with 20 points, left the Seattle Storm two weeks before the Olympic break so she could join her teammates.

"I think we're all pretty disappointed in our camp," Australia guard Kristi Harrower said. "To lose by 30 against a quality team, we believed we could win the gold medal. Against the USA you have to play a 40-minute game.

"We didn't play 40 minutes. We shot the ball terrible. Defense has been one of our strengths through the tournament, but we just weren't great on our 'D' today."

Even with their extra training and Taylor returning to the starting lineup after missing the semifinals with a sprained right ankle, the Australians just couldn't match the Americans' depth.

"We've said from day one that top to bottom we are a deep team," said Kara Lawson, who led the U.S. with 15 points. "We just send wave after wave of players at you."

Behind Lawson's 5-for-5 shooting, the American reserves outscore Australia's 59-11.

Trailing 13-10 late in the first quarter, U.S. coach Anne Donovan inserted her second unit, led by Lawson. Once again, the bench delivered just as it had throughout the Olympics with Lawson scoring the first six points of a 12-2 run to close the quarter as the U.S. took a 22-15 lead.

Then Parker, who has had a relatively quiet Olympics averaging only 8.7 points, took over. She scored eight of the Americans' 10 points to open the second quarter, including two three-point plays. On her second, the 6-foot-4 forward took the ball from the top of the key, went through her legs and drove to the basket for a layup - a play that thrilled the men's basketball players in the stands and prompted LeBron James to give her a standing ovation.

Leslie once said others can win the gold medal after she retired, but that won't be easy.

Parker, who finished with 14 points, and Sylvia Fowles, who added 13 points and led the team in scoring during the Olympics, are the future of U.S. women's basketball.

"Sylvia and Candace are two young guns that are like sponges, they're just soaking up everything they can," Donovan said. "And they are as you can see more than ready to take the torch now and run with it."

The U.S. will enter London in 2012 with a 33-game Olympic winning streak - one that may not end any time soon.

"It's all about tradition," U.S. co-captain Katie Smith said. "U.S. women's basketball has always been about passing down from generation to generation. We'll be in good hands."