By David Hein
France ruined any dreams of Italy shocking Europe again by easing past the Azzurri 94-68 to set up a U20 European Championship final showdown with hosts Greece.
Edwin Jackson poured in 18 points while Kevin Seraphin had 14 points and Antoine Diot chipped in nine points, eight rebounds, 10 assists and four steals for Jean-Aymi Toupane's French, who held Italy to just 35 shooting for the game.
"They had a big win yesterday and we knew they were playing with a lot of enthusiasm. So it was kind of dangerous to play them today. They were really motivated," said Jackson of Italy, which upset Lithuania in the quarterfinals.
"We knew it was going to be about defense. We allowed them to score threes but not in the paint."
Now France face off against hosts Greece, whom they handed their only loss of the competition, winning 81-71 in the preliminary round.
"We'll be playing Greece in Greece. It will be a big crowd. It's gonna be amazing. No matter what happens. And I hope we end up with the win," said Jackson.
"Maybe France is magic. It happened one time, maybe it can happen twice. I think they should take us seriously. Even though the crowd will help them, we've been champion at U18. Believe me, this group of France is motivated. I understand they are confident but we'll be ready too."
Italy, who were led by Riccardo Truccolo's 15 points, will take on Spain for the bronze medal.
Italy got caught off guard at the start of the game, watching France score the first 12 points and build the advantage to 16 points - 25-9. A Niccolo Martinoni three-pointer would bring Italy to within 26-14 after one period.
Tommaso Raspino and Truccolo both knocked down three-balls early in the second quarter and the gap was down to 28-24. A 6-2 spurt would re-establish and eight-point gap. And despite treys from both Truccolo and Roberto Rullo, the French still led 45-39 at the break.
France hit the first six points of the second half to start a 15-3 run for a 60-42 advantage. Back-to-back triples by Carl Ona-Embo and Jackson pushed the gap to 67-48 before Italy trimmed it to 67-52 after three periods.
And France made sure early on that there would be no Italian magic like in the quarter-finals against Lithuania, out-scoring the Italians 8-1 for a 22-point margin - 75-53.
"We saw the last quarter yesterday and they were really putting pressure on the guards. And Lithuania was really turning the ball over a lot. And we were trying not to do that. Just try to run the clock as much as possible," said Jackson.
And the Azzurri would get no closer than 17 points the rest of the way while the French pushed the lead to 27 points in the fourth.