By David Hein
Slovenia drained seven three-pointers during a 24-6 run to start the fourth quarter in knocking off France 88-74 to clinch seventh place at the 2007 EuroBasket as well as a berth in next summer's pre-Olympic tournament.
Jaka Lakovic hit three long bombs in the big stretch on his way to 26 points, six rebounds and seven assists.
Uros Slokar struck twice from long distance and converted a three-pointer in the spurt as part of his 13-point showing and Radoslav Nesterovic added 19 points, eight rebounds and two blocked shots.
|Tony Parker's 31 wasn't enough to put France into the additional Olympic qualifying tournament.|
“This is just unbelievable,” said Lakovic. "We played so well in this tournament and were just one step away from the semi-finals. At least we have met our aim before the EuroBasket of reaching the pre-Olympic tournament.”
Slovenia were able to overcome two heart-breaking losses to Greece and Germany in the past two days in clinching seventh place, one spot worse than in 2005.
France star Tony Parker scored a game-high 31 points and did all he could to keep the French in the game late, scoring his team's first 10 points of the fourth period.
France, who also got 13 points from Ronny Turiaf and 10 points from Joseph Gomis, crashed to eighth place - their worst EuroBasket showing since taking 10th place in 1997.
"The blame goes to the whole group. Today we were motivated and we reacted well. But it was very difficult when Slovenia were hitting so well from outside in the fourth quarter," said French captain Boris Diaw, who fouled out with zero points and four rebounds.
"Our aim coming into this tournament was to reach the Olympics or the pre-Olymipc tournament, but we have failed in both aims."
France started the game cold, just 1-of-6 from the floor in falling behind 14-6.
Claude Bergeaud's team rolled off an 11-0 run to pull ahead but trailed 18-17 after the first period.
The game went back-and-forth in the second quarter and was even at 33-33 before Yakhouba Diawara's three-pointer keyed a 7-0 France spurt, during which Lakovic drew his third foul.
Matjaz Smodis was able to hit a three-pointer in the waning seconds of the first half to trim the deficit to 40-36 at the break.
After Slovenia had pulled to within 40-39, Joseph Gomis and Parker combined for France's final 14 points of the third period in jumping to a 57-51 advantage going into the fourth.
Ales Pipan's team went on fire to start the final period.
Slokar drained two long bombs and converted a three-point play and Lakovic hit three treys of his own in a 24-6 run which opened a 75-63 lead with 3:40 to play.
Slovenia would eventually work the lead up to 17 points in the fourth.