The French revolution is complete.
After looking dead in the water following three consecutive losses, France defeated Lithuania 77-72 in the title game and lifted the UMCOR U18 European Championship gold medal.
The victory caps off a remarkable turnaround for France, which had lost to Spain, Iceland and Lithuania earlier in the competition.
|Martynas Gecevicius led Lithuania with 17 points.|
“We were ashamed, because we were losing and we had no confidence,” said French coach Richard Billant.
“We won the gold medal, so we came up with the best response.”
“We were playing terribly,” said French guard Edwin Jackson.
“We found our way. This coaching staff was great and I want to thank them.”
Leading 44-40 at the half, France took a double-digit lead (64-49) in the third quarter thanks to a 16-2 run.
Tournament MVP Nicolas Batum scored six of his points 11 during the stretch, all of which came on drives to the basket.
Lithuania forced an up-tempo game by trying to press and fought back to within four points (66-62) with eight minutes to go in the fourth.
Martynas Gecevicius, who has been magnificent all tournament long for Lithuania, sparked the comeback by hitting a three.
Lithuania committed two costly turnovers and a jumper by Adrien Moerman put France up 72-65 with 5:00 remaining.
|Antoine Diot is one of several French players that won gold in Greece at the U16 category in 2004.|
“France is such a big team and they are so much more stronger and faster,” said Lithuania head coach Rutjanis Paulauskas in reference to Lithuania’s fourth quarter turnovers.
“I still can’t believe that they lost three games in a row.”
Gecevicius got Lithuania to within 72-68 by hitting another jumper just under the three-minute mark, but Antoine Diot answered on France’s next possession with a three-pointer of his own to extend France’s lead to 75-68.
Marius Valukonis connected on a lay-up to cut the lead to five at the 2:04 mark.
Lithuania, needing a stop with just under two minutes remaining, forced a French miss, but Ludovic Vaty came up with a huge offensive rebound and put-back to give France a seven-point lead with 1:40 to go.
Lithuania tried to claw back, but ran out of time, and France celebrated the gold medal game victory.
The win marks the second time that this generation of players have lifted gold in Amaliada.
The U16 squad won the 2004 European Championship.
“No doubt, I like coming here,” said Moerman, who was a part of both teams.