No Panic As France Hit Back To Stun Lithuania

06 August 2005

France came back from a double-digit deficit in the fourth quarter to stun Lithuania 76-73 and reach the final of the Termosteps U16 European Championship.

Adas Juskevicius buried a three-pointer with 20 seconds remaining in the third quarter to give the Baltic giants a 59-47 advantage but France rose to the challenge.

Raphael Wilson hit a shot from behind the arc at the beginning of the fourth quarter to start a 9-0 run and launch the French fightback.

Tahar Liegon's team then rode the excellent play of Antoine Diot over the final seven minutes to secure victory.

Diot's lay-up with 4:26 left in the contest put France in front for good at 67-65 although the game was not decided until the final seconds.

Lithuania's Vaidas Cepukaitis dunked and was fouled by Wilson with 13 seconds left.

When the big centre sank the free throw, Lithuania only trailed 74-73.

Cepukaitis then fouled Christophe Leonard two seconds later, and the French forward missed both free throws to give the Lithuanians a chance to win.

But the 1.98m Cepukaitis turned the ball over with a bad pass, forcing Juskevicius to foul Diot to stop the clock with five seconds to play.

The 16-year-old Diot calmly sank both free throws for a 76-73 lead, and Juskevicius' desperation three-pointer at the buzzer was off target.

The missed free throws near the end aside, Leonard had a terrific game for France with 17 points and 15 rebounds in 35 minutes. He was five of eight from the line.

Diot, however, could be headed for tournament MVP honours if France win because he had another big night with a game-high 20 points.

The Bourg En Bresse-born player, a 1.87m guard who is averaging more than 22 points and seven rebounds per contest in Leon, also was a perfect six of six at the line.

One aspect of his game that could be improved is his assist to turnover ratio. He is averaging 1.7 assists and 2.3 turnovers.

Sarunas Vasiliauskas had 18 points to lead the Lithuanians, who had looked to be the favourites after winning their last quarter-final game against Spain.

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