France’s U16 Boys made history today in Amaliada, Greece, becoming the first side ever from their country to win a European Championship at this age level. It is the 18th time that this competition has been played and in 17 attempts, France had failed to win a medal.
Les Bleus had come close in recent history, finishing in 4th place in 1997 and 1999, and 5th in 2001 and 2003.
|Ludovic Vaty slams home 2 of his 12 points against Russia|
It was Russia who finished the group undefeated, while Italy, Spain and France all shared a 1-2 record. France, however, joined Russia in the semi-finals by virtue of their superior goal average.
In the semis, France found themselves facing Turkey, their nemesis from the preliminary round.
In that first game, the French received an attack of early tournament nerves. They could only score 6 points in the 4th quarter and Turkey came from behind to win.
This time around it was Turkey who had a 4-point advantage at the 30 minute mark, but France who turned the defensive screws. The French held Turkey to just 5 points in the period and managed to harry Turkey’s top scorer Baris Hersek (16 ppg) into a 4/11 shooting performance.
Les Bleus held on for a 70:61 victory and a place in the final against a Russian side which had suffered just one defeat in the championship, a 70:72 reverse to Slovenia in the opening game.
The first game between the finalists had been close and so the second proved to be. Russia led for most of the contest, but France produced another strong 4th quarter which decided the game.
They led almost the entire 4th quarter and although the Russians were always within striking distance, they were unable to come up with a killer blow.
Defense was once again a major factor in the French win.
Russia’s considerable arsenal included Vitaly Kuznetsov, the tournament’s 2nd leading scorer (18.3 ppg) and single-handed slayer of Lithuania in the semi-finals (35 points, including 5/8 three-pointers).
Against France, Kuznetsov could only hit 3 of his 15 field goal attempts for 10 points.
Kirill Pishchalnikov came up with 19 points and 18 rebounds, but it was not enough.
As in most of the games, France were led by a balanced attack. 4 players reached double figures in scoring, led by guard Abdoulaye Mbaye (13 points) and forward Ludovic Vaty (12 points and 19 rebounds).