Belgium inched closer to an appearance at the EuroBasket by upsetting France 70-66 on Thursday evening in the opening game of the Additional Qualifying Round play-off.
In front of a raucous Antwerp crowd, Eddy Casteels' team trailed by as many as 10 points in the first half against a star-studded French team but fought back to lead by three before going to half-time behind 39-37.
|Axel Hervelle led Belgium in scoring|
Tony Parker, one of the most famous players in the world who was born in Belgium but grew up in France and represents Les Bleus, had 18 of his game-high 26 points in the first half.
The French surged into a 48-41 advantage early in the third quarter and appeared to be gaining control, only for the battling Belgians to come right back.
Dimitri Lauwers hit a jump shot, Axel Hervelle followed with two free throws and Lionel Bosco connected from long range to knot the scores at 48-48 with 6:04 to go in the third quarter.
Hervelle capped the run with a three-point play and Belgium led 51-48.
Then it was France's turn to come back and a Boris Diaw basket gave Vince Collet's side a 56-53 lead with 52 seconds to go in the third quarter.
After Roel Moors reduced the arrears to just one at the end of the frame, Lauwers buried a three-ball early in the fourth and Hervelle followed with a jumper to make it a 60-56 in favor of the home side.
Sam Van Rossum had been an injury doubt before the game but the point guard played and took his points haul to nine with a jumper 6:36 from the end for a 64-58 lead.
Belgium then went ice cold from the field, and France made their move.
Parker hit two free-throws, Ronny Turiaf dunked and Parker hit a jumper to tie the game at 64-64 with 1:51 remaining.
The French defense failed to find Lauwers on the perimeter and the three-point specialist hit them with a long-range bomb to take the advantage back to 67-64
Parker cut the gap to 67-66 with a lay-up, only for Lauwers to go to the other end and hit another three for the final points of the game.
France will probably still be the favorites to advance to the EuroBasket, especially as they will be at home in the return leg on Sunday, but Belgium have served notice that they are for real
Hervelle had 14 points and six rebounds for Belgium, who also got 13 from Moors and 12 from Lauwers.
In Parker's game-high 26 points, he made all nine of his attempts from the free-throw line
Turiaf was immense for France, finishing with 14 points and 11 rebounds.
Nicolas Batum has been one of France's top players in the Additional Qualifying Round but he was held to just five points and one board in almost 34 minutes.
Diaw had six points and three rebounds.