France Hang On To Beat Russia, Clinch Semis Spot

31 July 2009

France just about held on to beat Russia 74-61 in the quarter-finals at the U18 European Championship Men 2009 in Metz, France.

The hosts led by as many as 21, 52-31, midway through the third quarter but then Russia went on a 16-0 run to close within 52-47 on Dmitry Kulagin's corner three-pointer with just over a minute left in the period.

Evan Fournier scored on a baseline drive in the closing seconds to put France up 54-47 as they headed into the final frame. That basket was the first in more than six minutes for the hosts.

Pavel Shavkunov put Russia back within five, 54-49, with nine minutes left in the game but that was as close as they got.

Fabien Paschal made a pair of free-throws to restore a 10-point lead, 59-49, with juster under six minutes to go and the Russians were now in the penalty the rest of the way.

France made just enough free-throws to keep a safe advantage and Henri Kahudi then made a pair of field goals in the last two minutes to put the game well and truly beyond Russia's reach.

"We just stopped playing - it's as simple as that," head coach Philippe Ory said of his team's passive play in the third quarter.

"We gave up a few baskets and our players got worried they were going to make bad decisions so instead of doing what they usually would, they froze."

"Russia got back in the game but I think it was always going to be very hard for them to have a chance of winning. It goes without saying we can't have that same lapse against Lithuania in the semi-final or we will pay the price."

France led 43-29 at the break and extended that to 52-31 when Evan Fournier hit consecutive three-pointers and Nicolas Wachowiak made a free-throw as Russia head coach Mikhail Solovyev was called for a technical foul with 6:15 to go in the third quarter.

The Russians then went on their incredible run.

Early on, the game was back and forth. The first quarter was close with the lead changing six times and the teams tied on four occasions.

Mikhail Nabotov scored the game's first five points but France then scored the next six points to edge in front on Nikola Stojiljkovic fastbreak lay-up.

Leo Westermann hit from beyond the arc and Mael Lebrun went in for a swooping lay-up as France went up 15-12 but Pavel Shavkunov got hot from three-point range, hitting on two occasions, the second of which was at the quarter buzzer, to give Russia a 20-19 edge.

France closed the first half with a 14-3 run to lead by 14, 43-29, at the break thanks to some good defense.
Henri Kahudi stepped into the passing lane and went all the way for the dunk and less than 30 seconds later the swarming defense of Stojiljkovic and Christian Cairo would result in the latter going in for an uncontested dunk of his own.

Cairo scored inside for a 35-26 lead and, when Stojiljkovic hit consecutive three-pointers before feeding a cutting Cairo for a lay-up, Les Bleus led 43-27.

Ivan Lazarev had a dunk in the closing seconds of the second quarter, one in which Russia were outscored 24-9.

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