Czech Republic took a giant step towards the semi-finals of the Umcor U18 European Championship Women on Wednesday with a hard-earned win against France.
Katerina Elhotova came up with two huge baskets in the final 50 seconds to lead Czech Republic to a come-from-behind victory.
The story of the game began to unfold in the fourth quarter. Nerves were a huge factor for both sides and more than apparent in the statistics.
|Katerina Elhotova |
The two teams combined for a miserable 1/11 from the free throw line in the third period and France led by one point after 30 minutes, 48-49.
France came out in the fourth quarter and went straight to center Endene Miyem. The tactics paid off as she had 6 points in a 12-4 run which saw France take a 52-61 lead with just under five minutes to play.
But just when Czech Republic looked dead and buried, they started to show signs of life.
Elhotova made 2 free throws and Katerina Kolarova followed that up with a lay-up and bonus shot to bring her team to within 3 points, 60-63.
France's Carine Paul suffered a nightmarish game at the offensive end (she shot 3/16 from the field) and was unable to convert a lay-up which gave the Czechs another possession.
It was Elhotova who stepped up and her free throw line jump shot cut the lead to one point, 62-63.
After a timeout, French guard Lucie Bouthours stepped out of bounds and Elhotova converted a lay-up from a Katerina Bartonova pass to give the Czechs the lead.
With 19 seconds to go France still had a chance to go back in front, but another turnover led to an unsportsmanlike foul by Paul on Bartonova as she deliberately impeded the fast break.
The drama was not quite over as Bartonova missed both free throws and although Czech Republic got the ball back, Bartonova threw the inbounds pass directly out of bounds to give France a final shot.
It was Bouthors who attacked the rim but the Czech defense held firm and she was forced out of bounds.
France were forced to foul and Kolarova this time made sure from the line, 66-63.
Niyem had a final chance to tie and her three-point attempt from just inside the halfway line drew iron, but bounced out.
Elhotova finished with 20 points and 7 rebounds for Czech Republic who shot 15/30 from the free throw line.
Niyem led France with 26 points, 18 rebounds and 3 blocks. France shot 5/19 from the free throw line and did not attempt any free throws in the fourth quarter.