France finished the Preliminary Round with a perfect 3-0 record after edging a determined Israel in the last minute for a 73-70 win.
It was a tale of two offenses, since neither defense could hold the other team from hitting 50% of their shots. However, the teams did differ in who generated the offensive exhibition.
France had eight players contribute over five points apiece while only 12 of Israel's 70 came from a player other than their three guards.
|It was another frustrating game for Israel.|
Israeli center Katia Levitsky and power forward Liad Suez Karni, alternating with Ekaterina Abrazom, doubled quickly any time the ball entered the post. They succeeded in holding Gruda to 11 points, a good share of which she had to go to her face-up jump shot from the high post to get.
On one play in the third quarter Levitsky even stuffed a lay-up attempt by Gruda that sent the French star to the ground.
Gruda expects to see a lot of such hard double-teams in the next round.
"I think everybody knows that our strength is our post game so we have got to get ready to get doubled every time, all the time, so now we have to work on it," she said.
Israel guard Liron Cohen led all scorers with 30 points, including a perfect six-of-six from beyond the three-point line. She was supported by Shay Doron's 15 points while point guard Laine Selwyn added 13 more.
The game was back and forth during the entire forty minutes. The lead swung 18 times and neither team managed to pull ahead by more than six points.
With the game tied at 68 with under a minute to play, Israel had its chances to go home with a victory.
But four clutch free throws in the last 40 seconds by France's Celine Dumerc combined with a tough unsportsmanlike foul called against Selwyn and a missed lay-up by Cohen with 18 seconds on the clock sealed the game for France.
Cohen felt that this game, just like the losses to Italy and Belarus, came down to the details.
"We are young. Mistakes at the end of each game cost us the win and I hope that we can come to the next championship and understand that at this level those mistakes can't happen," the shooting guard said.
The game opened with Israel coming out firing and running the court after turnovers.
France looked a step slow at the beginning as if after yesterday's overtime win against Belarus had left them a little drained. But that changed as the game went on and the score remained tight.
"I think we were kind of relaxed because they were already eliminated, but we wanted to win because it is good to win every game. It's better mentally," Gruda said.
Midway through the third quarter Israel was as close as it would get to breaking away when pushed to its biggest lead of six points.
But back-to-back threes by Emilie Gomis, who had 11 in the game, and Cathy Melain tied it at 46 with 6:06 on the clock.
From there on the score see-sawed till the very last moments.
Doron took what she could from her team's 0-3 record.
"Personally I just take it that we lost three games. I think we have a lot to give as a national team. I think altogether we had a pretty successful tournament overall for our country," she said.
Cohen, who played her best game of the tournament against the French, tried to put the disappointing result in context:
"We came here in the past and got thirty, forty points on our heads. This time is the first time we have played on the same level with the all the other teams. So I think we can take this as something positive, but when you are a professional you want to win every game."Now France goes on to Riga to battle for a medal while Israel heads home to wait another two years to see if Cohen's wish can come true.
Pierre Vincent, France Head Coach
"For us this game was nothing, just work. We did a really good job on defense - it is not so easy against Israel."
Eli Rabi, Israel Head Coach
"Firstly - I congratulate my colleague and his players. For France this game was not so important but they fought and did their job. We almost won this match but unfortunately now we're out of this tournament. We will learn from this experience and let's hope that in the next championship we'll do it better."