Referees: Gianluca Mattioli (ITA), Milija Vojinovic (SRB), Marius Ciulin (ROU)
Latvia Into Semis
Classy Latvia held off a late fight back by France to win their EuroBasket Women showdown 66-62 and reach the semi-finals of the event for the first time.
Point guard Gunta Basko led a balanced attack with 15 points while a terrific defense allowed Ainars Zvirgzdins’ team to claim the biggest result in Latvian women’s basketball history.
Just two years ago at the EuroBasket Women in Turkey, France hammered Latvia in the fifth place game, beating them to the final spot on offer to Europe for last year’s FIBA
Yacoubou contributed on the interior but France once again struggled from outside.
World Championship in Brazil.
“That was one tough cookie, I'd say,” Basko said. “We prepared really hard. Obviously, it paid off really well.
“We stopped their inside players. We're so happy and so satisfied and so overwhelmed that we won this game.
“And it was a bit of revenge after losing against them in Turkey by 15 points. But this means so much more and feels so much better.”
The Baltic side, which got outstanding efforts from center Zane Tamane (12 points, eight rebounds) and power forward Liene Jansone (14pts, 8rbs), led by as many as 14 in the fourth quarter on Thursday, yet they had to survive a nervous ending.
With 3:45 remaining, France trailed 61-49 but Jacques Commeres’ team went on an 11-3 run to close the gap to 64-60 with 33 seconds remaining.
After Basko missed a pair of free throws, the Latvians fouled Celine Dumerc when she was attempting a three-pointer from the left corner.
Dumerc made the first free throw but missed the second.
She then converted the third to leave Latvia nursing a 64-62 lead.
They inbounded the ball to Anete Jekabsone-Zogota and she was fouled.
Jekabsone, who played professionally in France with Bourges two years ago, went to the line and made both attempts before Dumerc missed with a desperation heave right before the end.
Jekabsone-Zogota, who got hurt early in the game but returned to the court and played more than 34 minutes and scored 12 points, said: “I've got goosebumps. This is fantastic
Liene Jansone had 14 points and eight rebounds in the win for Latvia.
“I am thrilled that we have reached the semi-finals.
“We played very good defense and France struggled with our zone defense.
“We had many steals from inside.
"Our coach kept telling us, you can win this game, you can beat this team.”
Indeed, Latvia’s interior defense gave France fits, with Jansone coming up with three of her team’s 11 steals on the night.
As for her injury, Jekabsone-Zogota said: "In the first minute, Sandra Dijon hit me with her knee in my muscle and it was so painful but the doctors gave me some medicine.
“Now I'm starting to feel the pain again.”
Zvirgzdins hailed the battling spirit of his star player.
“Even though Anete got injured at the start of the game, she continued to fight heroically,” he said.
We prepared really hard. Obviously, it paid off really well.
Latvia guard Gunta Basko
“All the girls did a heroic job in making history
“We are just a small country, but we’re good. This is very important. I’m so happy.”
France have endured a lot of struggles on offense in this tournament and their quarter-final showing was no exception.
They ended up 13 of 37 (35.1%) inside the arc and six of 20 (30%) from long range.
What the French never struggle with, however, is fighting until the very end.
They had fallen behind by 12 points in the third quarter but clawed their way back to 44-40 by the end of the third quarter after two Emilie Gomis free throws and a Dumerc jumper.
When play resumed, Latvia jolted France with a 9-0 run that Basko capped with a three-ball with 6:14 remaining to make it 53-40.
Later in the quarter, Emmeline Ndongue, Sandrine Gruda and Edwige Lawson-Wade all had baskets in a 6-1 run that saw France cut the deficit to 62-55 with 2:16 remaining.
Lawson-Wade then added two more from the line to make it 62-57.
Basko stopped the rot with two shots from the stripe, but a Dumerc three-pointer made it 64-60 and France pulled even closer but in the end, Latvia held on.
Next up for Latvia is the winner of Russia’s quarter-final against Lithuania.
"We will fight, we have already done more than we had to in this tournament but in the semi-finals we will continue to fight and play,” Jekabsone-Zogota said.
"If it's Russia who will play next, then we will try to look at the videos and see how we can defend Maria Stepanova.
“Right now, I just want to think about the present and prepare for our next game.”
For France, the only thing that matters is winning two classification games to finish in fifth, which would assure them of a place at the pre-Olympic qualifying tournament.
“Everything was very difficult for us today,” Dumerc said.
“During the first period we couldn't play the fast break. And they really have a lot of dangerous players and good shooting players.”
Commeres admitted France had gone down against excellent opposition.
“This team is very dangerous with their outside players,” he said.
“They played very well inside. After the first period, it was very difficult for us to play correctly and we couldn't recover.”