By Joseph Wilson
France and Belarus, two teams that battled each other only eleven days before in Group D action in Valmiera, will face off to determine which team will vie for the gold medal on Saturday.
France won that first match-up, 63-61, in overtime.
Belarus will now have a shot at erasing some bad memories of two last-second shots from that down-to-the-wire contest. The first by France's Emmanuelle Hermouet, who swished the net right as the fourth quarter buzzer sounded to send the game into overtime. The second shot also went in but it had left Tatyana Troina's fingertips a fraction of a second too late and was waved off at the end of the extra period.
Both teams have shown they have what it takes to win the close one. France come in after pulling out a win against a Greek team that had the game under their control up till the very end. Belarus, not to be outdone, went to overtime against Slovakia, this time proving victorious thanks to some late-game heroics by point guard Natallia Marchanka.
Head-to-Head: France beat Belarus 63-61 in overtime in the Preliminary Round.
Last Time Out: Belarus beat Slovak Republic 70-68 in overtime while France edged by Greece 51-49 in the Quarter-Finals.
Key Match-Up: The players in the paint. Belarus's Yelena Leuchanka and Anastasiya Verameyenka vs. France's Sandrine Gruda and Emmeline Ndongue. Both teams rely on their bigs to generate their own points and points for their teammates on the outside as well. When either team does not get their inside players enough touches, they suffer greatly in getting off good shots.
Key Stat: 6. That is how many free throws Belarus made in the first game against France. It is also how many free throws France missed. The difference at the line was abysmal. France went to the free-throw line 26 times (making 20) compared to Belarus's 8 trips to the charity stripe (making 6).
X-Factor: French center Isabelle Yacoubou-Dehoui. She came off the bench against Russia to score 12 points, grab 3 offensive boards, and block a shot all in just 12 minutes. When Belarus goes small with only one of their bigs, Yacoubou-Dehoi could do major damage on both ends of the court. Sounding Off: "This game will stay with us as a bad dream for quite awhile." - Belarus captain Nataliya Trafimava on her team's overtime loss to France in the Preliminary Round.