Italy will play for their first-ever gold medal at the Termosteps U16 European Championship Women after upsetting title-holders France 64-55 in the first semi-final in Katowice.
Debora Carangelo made seven free throws in the final 1:30 and led her team with 20 points and four steals as Italy enter their fifth U16 final - and first since 1995. Gaia Gorini added 19 points for the winners.
The Italians, who will face off with the victor of Spain-Sweden in Sunday's final, forced 25 French turnovers, including three straight in holding France scoreless for the last two minutes.
France were paced by nine points each by Christelle Diallo and Jenny Fousseau while Eléonore Grossemy had eight points and 12 rebounds. Arnaud Guppillotte's team will now face off with the loser of Spain-Sweden on Sunday, hoping to at least capture their third bronze medal after 1997 and 1999.
|Gaia Gorini (Italy) scored 19 points|
Diallo made three baskets early as France opened an 11-5 advantage. And they upped the advantage to 16-9. The Italians forced three quick turnovers and Gorini pulled her team to within 18-16 before Virginia Galbiati's break-away lay-up knotted the game at 20-20. Jenny Fouasseau's lay-up had France ahead 22-20 after one period.
Florine Basque opened the gap to four points at 26-22 but Giovanni Lucchesi's team used the long ball to pull ahead. Gorini's triple made it 26-25 and then Marta Masoni hit two three-pointers as Italy went on a 12-2 run for a 37-29 advantage. And Grossemy cut the deficit to 37-31 at the break.
Awa Diallo opened the second half with a basket though Beatrice Carta's triple gave Italy a 40-33 lead with eight minutes left. The Italians forced turnovers on four straight possessions but could only up the advantage to 43-35 following Carta's next long ball. France would come back with their tough defense and knot the game at 43-43 on a Fousseau long ball. Carangelo, however, answered straight away with a three-ball and Valeria Nicola's triple just before the buzzer made it 49-45 going into the fourth period.
France struggled to attack the Italian zone early in the fourth and Lucchesi's team were able to open a 10-point cushion - 55-45 - after a jumper by Gorini, who had also hit a three-pointer. Laury Aulnette finally hit France's first basket - a three-ball - nearly three minutes into the quarter and a later triple and lay-up by Konteh trimmed the deficit to 56-55 with two minutes to play. But Konteh fouled out with 1:10 remaining and Carangelo kept her cool down the stretch, hitting two foul shots with 17 seconds left, another two with 12 seconds to play and a final one with 10 seconds remaining to secure the victory.