With the help of a 13-3 run to start the fourth quarter, France defeated Spain 80-67 to advance to the UMCOR U18 European Championship Men gold medal game.
French sensation Nicolas Batum once again came up with a huge performance, particularly in the fourth quarter, as France earned revenge from a defeat to Spain in the preliminary round and handed the Spanish their first loss in the competition.
|Antoine Diot (France) and Javier Vega Merayo (Spain) fight for a loose ball.|
“We moved Moerman outside so that way we could spread out the floor and allow Nicolas space to play more one-on-one,” said French coach Richard Billant.
Batum added another bucket during the run and a three from Abdoulaye M’Baye and free throws from Adrien Moerman with 6:06 to go put the French ahead 58-50 midway through the fourth.
Spain fought back to 58-54, and then Batum delivered another thunderous dunk and Antoine Diot hit a three to give France a 63-54 lead with 4:15 to go.
Spain would never get closer from then on.
“We changed players a lot so I think our guys were more fresh and that they (Spain) were tired,” commented Billant.
Batum scored 11 of his game-high 24 points in the fourth quarter. He also pulled down a team-high nine boards.
|Antoine Diot drives to the basket for France.|
“This is one of the my most difficult losses,” said Rubio.
“I don’t know why put we just couldn’t score in the fourth quarter.”
The win punctuates a remarkable French turn-around. Just days ago there was much uncertainty surrounding Billant’s men following three consecutive losses.
“Today I told them to just go out and have fun,” explained Billant.
“I said if you have an open shot, take it. Don’t worry. Just play.”
France and Lithuania will now play for the gold medal tomorrow.
“We lost to them in the our first quarter-final round game, but my team didn’t have so much confidence then,” said Billant.
“But things changed and I think we will come out and win the gold medal.”