France won the bronze medal in the 2004 U18 European Championship after beating Italy 74-68 in the game for 3rd place. France came really close to losing another game that seemed secured in its hands, but although Italy took the lead deep into the 4th quarter France had Johan Petro to save the day, and carry his team to a medal.
France set a deja-vu for Italy who had a very bad 1st quarter, just like in the Semi-Final against Spain. After 7 minutes France was already up by 15, and Italy was stuck on only 3 points. Finally Italy found the rim and finished the first quarter behind by “only” 13, 20-7.
Italy tried to add some spice to the game, but the two French towers - Petro on offense and and Mahinmi on defense, made sure France stayed on top in the first minutes of the 2nd quarter by dealing 2 great blocks. Belinelli finished a fast break with a 3 point play and made it only 30-21 with 5 minutes to go in the 2nd, but Italy couldn’t continue with the momentum, and finished the first half down by 9, 38-29.
France kept a stable lead for most of the 3rd quarter, but just like in the Semi-Finals against Turkey, found the way to make it an interesting one. Belinelli started the comeback with a huge dunk penetrating on the right side, then finished it with an easy lay up that brought Italy to minus 1, 53-52. Curti nailed a big three pointer that helped his team to keep the head above waterline after 3 quarters, 58-56.
Italy got even closer than that after a 3 pointer by Antonutti that cut it down to one, 62-61, with a little over 7 minutes to play. The following couple of minutes passed with both teams missing shot after shot, but it was Italy who broke the ice with a bucket from Canavesi that was worth a first lead 62-63, with 4:30 to go.
Petro gave France the lead for one more time with a mid-range jumper, and added a huge block on the other side that allowed the French to take a 67-63 lead with 3 minutes to play. One more powerful follow dunk by Petro sent Italy to think about it in a time out with 2:35 to go, but after Canavesi missed a 3 Italy raised its hands.