Over in France in the U18 European Championship Men, it’ll be France and Serbia duking it out in the finals today after both squads used teamwork to overcome a potentially devastating individual performance.
Team France held off Lithuania, 68-63, again allowing the opposition to claw its way back in the fourth quarter yet holding on to seal the victory; in this case, Les Bleus even managed to overcome Jonas Valanciunas’ out-of-his head 37-point, 19-rebound performance.
Serbia, too, survived an insane individual show in beating Team Turkey, 66-61, despite Enes Kanter’s 32-point, 25-rebound in-your-faceness.
The France-Serbia game for all the marbles goes down at 6.45pm CET, but the Turkey-Lithuania game at 4.30 should be well worth it, too, if only to see what Valanciunas and Kanter in a game of can-you-top-this as these players vie for tournament MVP. The stats have Valanciunas at 20.0 points and 11.3 boards per game (good for second and fourth in the categories, respectively), while Kanter leads the competition in RPG at 16.1 and stands fourth in scoring at 16.5.
FIBA briefs follow.
(FIBA Europe) – France beat Lithuania, 68-63, to reach the final of the U18 European Championship Men 2009 in Metz.
The home side led by as many as 13 early in the fourth quarter before Lithuania charged back, but Les Bleus did just enough down the stretch to clinch a showdown with Serbia.
“This was a very good performance from our guys,” said head coach Philippe Ory. “We played hard throughout and even though Lithuania came back, we were strong enough to close out the game.”
“This is unbelievable,” said Mael Lebrun, who had 18 points to pace France. “We got going in the second quarter and kept that going until the fourth quarter. They got close near the end and we couldn’t help but think about the times in this tournament when we collapsed late in games. But I think we applied the lessons we learned and got the win.”
France took a 35-31 lead at the break and a charge late in the third quarter saw them up 52-45 as the final period got underway. They stayed very much in control and soon had their first double-digit lead of the night, 58-47, on Henri Kahuti’s shot with 8:09 left in the game.
That advantage would reach its peak at 13 when Evan Fournier scored on a lay-up some 30 seconds later.
But Lithuania fought back with Jonas Valanciunas – who was unstoppable with 37 points and 19 rebounds – leading the way. The center either scored or got fouled and, more often than not, made good on his trips to the free-throw line as a 7-0 run got his team back within five, 65-60, with 2:40 left to play.
Marius Linartas’ side applied some full court pressure on France’s ball handlers and the move paid off as the hosts turned the ball over, leading to Valanciunas tipping in Augustas Peciukevius’s missed lay-up for a 65-62 score with 48.2 seconds.
France threw the ball away trying to inbound it. Deividas Nazarovas was fouled and made one of two attempts from the foul line to close the gap to 65-63 with 40 seconds remaining.
Kahudi broke through the pressure defense but his lay-up was swatted away by Valanciunas and Lithuania raced up the court knowing they could tie the game or take the lead.
But Ovidijus Varanauskas badly missed a corner three and Fournier made a free throw for a 66-63 score.
The Lithuanians turned the ball over as they tried to bring it past midcourt and Kahudi fed a streaking Lebrun, who threw down a thunderous dunk for the final points of the night, bringing the fans to their feet.
Evan Fournier was the only other player in double-figures with a dozen, but 11 of 12 players scored for France. Valanciunas was the game’s high-scorer and Mantas Kadzevicius added nine for Lithuania.
Serbia overcame Enes Kanter’s monster game to beat Turkey, 66-61. Kanter had 32 points and 25 rebounds, but the Serbs used some balanced scoring and the strategy paid off as they got one step further than they did in last year’s event.
Kanter was carrying the scoring load and it worked for a while as Mustafa Derin’s side were up by as many as five, 46-41, on the center’s basket with 2:30 left in the third quarter.
The game was tied at 46 heading into the final quarter and Nikola Rondovic put his team ahead on a hook shot.
Kanter hit a pair of free throws at the other, but Danilo Andjusic then buried a three-pointer and, after Can Mutaf picked up his fourth foul, Nemanja Jamaraz extended the lead to 53-48.
Firat Toz got the Turks within two, 55-53, and the game was once again tied when Kanter scored inside with just under six minutes to go. However, the Serbs replied immediately by going on a 7-0 run. Dejan Musli sank a pair of foul shots and had a huge put-back dunk for a 59-55 advantage before Branislav Djekic converted a three-point play with 3:54 left to play.
Toz found Yuksel open for a dunk in transition to cut the deficit to 62-59 but Mutaf turned the ball over and fouled out. Andjusic made good on the ensuing free throws and Turkey could not get any closer than that.
Musli, who finished with 14 points, 11 rebounds and six blocks, made some key plays, swatting Kanter and Safak Edge’s shots on one possession.
Jamaraz finished with 14 points, Andjusic chipped in with 12 and Djekic had 10.