There was a point early in Sunday's women's basketball final when Brazil seemed to be getting the best of the United States. Hortencia was popping three-pointers, weaving her way to the hoop for underhand shots off the glass, slapping a hand on the press table as she flew by, ponytail whipping in the wind as she exulted in her dominance.
U.S. Coach Jody Conradt thought maybe she was up against an impossible task. Or, as she put it, "Drawing upon my cowboy background, I felt like I was trying to rope some goats that wouldn't be roped."
She's from Texas. That makes sense there.
In the second half, Conradt got a rope on those goats and the United States ended up with a 111-87 victory and a Pan American gold medal.
Hortencia Marcari continued to score and finished with 30 points. She always does. But the U.S. team started coming around, too. More help on defense. More rebounds. Up tempo.
And Katrina McClain. Conradt had to slap hands with McClain as she said: "I've used a lot of adjectives to describe Katrina--powerful, dominating, imposing. She's all those things."
McClain finished with 30 points and 11 rebounds.
Brazil Coach Maria Helena Cardoso did mention one thing she found wrong with McClain, "She's not from Brazil."
It was no mystery to Cardoso how her team was able to come within three points of the United States the first time the teams met in this tournament and then lose by 24 in the gold medal game: "The first time we weren't feeling much pressure because we knew we would be in the finals, and it's easier to play without pressure. Also Paula Silva (the team's second-leading scorer) has had the flu this week."
Just getting over the effects of the flu, Silva managed to score 26 points.
Holding Brazil's top scorers to 30 points and 26 points might not sound like much of a defensive feat, but Conradt will be happy to debate the point. She said so.
It took a team effort on Hortencia, with first responsibility to speedy Theresa Edwards.
Conradt said: "They set as many as three picks for Hortencia on many plays. Theresa is supposed to get through as many picks as she can. If she gets through one, she stays with her. If she gets through two, she stays with her. If she gets through three, it's her play.
"If, at any point, she can't get through, it's up to her teammate to flare off and take Hortencia. So it was very much a team effort."
Fran Harris was assigned to Silva, told to play smart defene, eliminate the three-point shot and force penetration.
Both plans work but Conradt said that even with the 20-point lead in the second half, not once did she breathe a sigh of relief. "Those two players cause any team trouble. . . . I know from past experience that there would be nothing easy about this game."
Asked what she had said to her team at halftime to cause the big turnaround, Conradt said she just wrote "50" on the blackboard. Getting a lot of blank looks, she chided reporters: "Y'all are supposed to be astute observers of the game. They scored 50 points on us in the first half. The Boston Celtics shouldn't score 50 points on us in a half."
That required a rather lengthy translation and some background for the foreign journalists.
Hortencia noted the U.S. team's height advantage and said: "We were worrying a little bit too much and we got very tired. It was hard to keep it up with the American defense. Our shots didn't fall the way I thought they should . . .
"But I always felt we were going to win. We were expecting to win."