France advanced to the final of the Termosteps U16 European Championship Women with a convincing 76-57 victory over Serbia and will have a chance to get double revenge against three-time reigning champions Spain.
A balanced French side held Serbia scoreless for more than five minutes in the fourth quarter and used a 15-0 run to blow the contest wide open.
France lost to Spain in the final game of the Qualifying Round and coach Gregory Halin and star Diandra Tchatchouang both were with the team which lost to Spain in the 2005 U16 final.
|Sara Krnjic's efforts were not enough for team Serbia|
Margaux Okou Zouzouo led four France players in double figures with 17 points. Allison Vernerey collected 13 points and 10 rebounds while Tchatchouang had 16 points and Isabelle Strunc scored 15.
Serbian center Sara Krnjic did all she could, gathering 21 points, 10 rebounds, two steals and three blocked shots. Milana Zivadinovic had 10 points while Tina Jovanovic returned to the court after a back injury with four points and seven rebounds before fouling out after 17 minutes.
The Serbs failed to reach the final - becoming the only of the five Serbian national teams at European youth tournaments this summer not to go for the gold. Dejan Kovacevic's team play Czech Republic on Sunday for the bronze medal.
Vernerey scored nine points in helping build a 19-8 with four minutes left in the first period. The Serbs closed the gap to 20-16 after the first quarter. Krnjic's second-chance basket gave Serbia the lead 22-21 and France went scoreless for five possessions in watching Serbia open a 28-22 advantage. But France evened things 30-30 at the break.
Neither team could pull away but foul trouble began having an impact on both teams. Vernerey picked up her fourth foul with 4:50 remaining in the third while Jovanovic was sent from the contest with her fifth foul on Adja Ndondji Konteh's three-point play which opened a 46-39 French lead.
Tchatchouang's offensive rebound gave France their biggest lead thus far - 52-40 with 47 seconds left in the third, which ended France up 52-42.
Serbia refused to lay over and pulled to within 57-55 with 6:31 to play as Maja Vucurovic scored three lay-ups and Marina Markovic hit for five points - including a three-pointer.
Vernerey returned and had an immediate impact, converting a three-point play and then stealing an entry pass and starting a fast break basket.
By the time Vernerey had fouled with with 3:31 remaining, the French had already opened a 68-50 lead. The 15-0 run ended with France ahead 72-55 with 1:30 to play.
"I told the girls I was very proud of what they did. They were a big team with big players. And we knew we had a good defence. But we had to do it on the court," said Halin.
"I'm proud because we had some tough times, like when Serbia got within two points. But I had confidence because this team is very mentally strong - especially under pressure."