by Dan Casey
|Martin Peterka was unstoppable at times as he lifted the Czech Republic over France with|
The Czech Republic pulled off a sensational Semi-Final win, beating France 73-65 to advance to the gold-medal game.
A 20-0 run, lasting 6:52 in the third and fourth quarters, saw the Czech team convert a 2-point deficit into a 58-40 lead. The Czech defense forced the French team into turnovers and missed shots, and were unstoppable on offense as they surged clear.
Martin Peterka hit five three-pointers on his way to 25 points to lead the Czech Republic.
Radovan Kouril, the team captain, picked up his 4th foul with 4:26 remaining in the second quarter, but came back to play the whole third quarter in an inspirational effort.
His performance was even more exceptional and important as back-up David Zumer twisted his ankle in the first half and did not return to the game.
The game had started so differently, France holding the Czech offense to just four points in the opening 5:30 of the contest to sprint out to a 12-4 lead.
After a time-out, the Czech team rallied to come back to 13-12 behind, but Charly Pontens hit a shot at the end of the first period to give France a 15-12 lead, with Olivier Yao-Delon blocking Zumer's final attempt.
Peterka began heating up in the second quarter, hitting consecutive three-pointers and then a lay-up from a great Soula pass to give the Czech team a 23-19 lead. Soula took over point-guard duties later in the quarter after Kouril's 4th foul and Zumer's injury, and immediately provided assists for Jiri Dedek and then Peterka to score again.
But France finished the half well, Lucas Paoletti and Yao-Delon hitting three-pointers, and then Yao-Delon converting two free throws to cut the lead to four points, 33-29 to the Czech Republic.
With Kouril back in the line-up at the start of the third quarter, French point guard Arthur Rozenfeld took advantage of the foul trouble to breeze by and set up Inglis, Rigot and Inglis again as the French team scored the first six points of the second half. Inglis followed by blocking a Peterka shot into the stands.
|Olivier Yao-Delon contributed 14 points and 9 rebounds for France including this finger-roll|
But Peterka came straight back with a three-pointer. Rigot replied, but Yao-Delon's bucket on the next possession was to give France their last lead of the contest as the incredible 20-0 run began with a Peterka steal which he took all the way for a lay-up at the other end to tie the game, 40-40.
After Kouril hit a stylish turnaround jump-shot, Peterka hit two three-pointers, the second with a desperation fling while covered strongly by two French defenders. The cheer which greeted the basket was deafening, and the Czechs were 48-40 ahead.
Kouril chipped in with his own three-pointer, and Peterka showed he could contribute defensively too with a block on Paoletti. Matej Svoboda ended the third quarter with a strong drive and reverse lay-up to put the Czech team ahead 53-40.
Svoboda opened the fourth quarter with another tough shot, hanging in the air to beat the French interior defenders, and David Subert nailed a three-pointer to leave the French reeling. The lead extended to 20 later in the period as Prokop Slanina converted a three-point play, showing no fear to attack Jean Biog again moments after his first attempt was blocked out-of-bounds.
But within moments, Dedek and then Kouril picked up their fifth fouls. With 4:41 remaining, the Czechs were rocking and Yao-Delon's three-pointer saw the lead cut to 12 points, 66-54 to the Czech Republic.
The French defense switched to full-court pressure, but Slanina escaped and Peterka found him alone under the basket for a simple lay-up. The French team couldn't make their shots, and Subert's tough drive and lay-up made the score 70-56. When Etienne Joumard then picked off an inbounds pass but blew the breakaway lay-up, the relief in the arena was palpable and though the French never gave up, the Czech team sealed victory from the free-throw line.
Peterka added 3 steals and 6 rebounds to his 25 points. Slanina had 13 points, 9 rebounds and 3 steals, and Kouril finished with 9 points and 5 assists. France were led by Rigot's 19 points, and Yao-Delon finished with 14 points and 9 rebounds. Inglis had 14 points, 7 rebounds and 2 blocked shots in the defeat.