|Benjamin Sene was at only 3 points in the game when he pulled up to score the decisive jumper that won the game|
by Yarone Arbel
Benjamin Sene bestowed the French team a key 67-65 win over Italy in Group E of the U16 European Championship at Osnovna Skola Jugoslavija in Bar, Montenegro on Monday afternoon.
Despite the close result the gaps in the standings are at maximum as France climbed to 3-0 while Italy fell down to 0-3 at the bottom of the rankings.
Tomorrow France will have a difficult day against Serbia, while Italy will take on Greece in hope to get their first win in the Qualifying Round.
Boris Dallo was the top scorer of France with 16, Raphael Binvignat scored 13 while Mouhammadou Jaiteh added 11 points and 12 rebounds
Francesco Candussi led Italy with 20 points, Mirco Turel had his best performance of the tournament with 13 points, while Aristide Landi had seven points, 10 rebounds and three assists for his side.
Sene showed his presence in the first couple of minutes with a three pointer that led France to an 8-2 lead, but Italy tied the score, and remained close as Candussi scored four in a row a made it 21-21 after eight minutes.
Charly Maraux put France back on top, before the same Candussi finished a fast break with a dunk, this time to bestow Italy a 28-29 lead with 14 minutes behind already.
The teams remained close until the half time buzzer, when finally Italy held the small lead, and entered the locker room up by two points, 35-37.
The break didn't have any effect on the happening on the court, as Italy kept the lead yet saw France answer with to every basket with points at the other side.
Jaiteh put an end to it and with 12 minutes on the game clock put France back on top and added a dunk right before the third buzzer to carry France to a 48-46 lead with now just 10 minutes to play.
Candussi was on fire and scored quick six early in the fourth, but couldn't produce enough energy to make a substantial run.
The lead continued to change hands almost by the minute, until Maraux hit a jumper to make it 60-59 for France coming the deciding five minutes.
Italy stayed right behind and with 57 ticks to play Turel returned and right away hit a three pointer with a bonus from the line to tie the score at 65-65.
Both sides missed a chance, before France called a timeout to set their last play.
Eventually it was Sene, who didn't score since the early minutes, who found the space for a jumper and scored the winning basket with five seconds to play.
Italy had time to reply, but after a timeout turned the ball over and missed a great chance to improve their chances in the standings.