By Paul Nilsen
France got out of jail to stay in the hunt for medals after a sensational comeback helped them claim the last semi-final spot with a stunning quadruple overtime 99-96 win over Turkey.
In a dramatic marathon that finished not too long before midnight, Turkey were left shattered and ready to pick up the pieces after they blew numerous opportunities to kill off French hopes.
In was a real heart-breaker and you could not help but to feel sorry for the losing team as their players sat on the floor wondering how they let the game slip through their fingers after blowing a ten point lead in the last quarter.
|Özge Kavurmacioglu played every single minute of the marathon game and contributed 29 pts on 11/17 from the field and 13 rbs|
None more so than Olcay Cakir who claimed a rare triple double with 19 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists while team-mate Özge Kavurmacioglu claimed a game high 29 points.
However it wasn't enough and relieved Coach Arnaud Guppillotte admitted that he had worried the game had been lost for his team.
"I just can't believe that game. Maybe it was the most amazing that I have ever been involved with as a coach."
"I had feared that we had lost the opportunity to achieve our goals for the tournament so many times but my team showed me that they never know when they are beaten."
"Sometimes you just have to let the girls play and this is what I did because they made shots and you have to give credit to Turkey."
"This Turkish team were amazing and I did not know what to say to them at the end of the game."
"It really was incredible and now we have to go again in the semi-finals against Belgium."
"Of course it will be difficult even without this overtime game with four periods but I believe in my players and we have reached the World Championships next year already after this unbelievable victory."
In an entertaining first half, it was Turkey that edged things, going into the locker room 38-34 ahead but it could and should have been by even more after they allowed France to finish strongly.
France also made an early move after the interval as they tied the scores at 40-40 inside two minutes with a lay-up by Esther Moisan Niamke following a gorgeous spin move by Diallo in the paint.
The momentum suddenly seemed to be with France and Moisan Niamke made it a one shot game at 44-43 with 15 minutes remaining. As the third quarter drew to a close there was absolutely nothing between the sides but in the last seconds, Koc put Turkey in front with a great score on the block and then Cakir drove on Epoupa and converted.
It meant Turkey were 53-49 ahead and when Ayse Cora pulled a great move in the paint to open up a six point advantage and it was a six point lead that remained with six minutes to play. After a French inside bucket, Kavurmacioglu then drained a sweet triple and France were under extreme pressure - even if Turkey were in foul trouble.
With four minutes to play the French took a time out and were 62-54 behind and it was Turkeys game to lose. With Cakir taking responsibility and the game to France, she made a big jump shot and opened up a double digit advantage for the first time in the game.
With three minutes left Moisan Niamke gave France hope with a big three and at 65-59 with just over a minute left, Claire Stievenard sunk potentially the shot of the game from downtown.
|Jodie Cornelie was patrolling the paint on both sides of the court and filled the stats sheet with 19 pts and 14 rbs|
Turkey then turned the ball over and with exactly sixty seconds left to play forward Jodie Cornelie sent the French team into raptures as she also stepped outside and stroked home a magnificent triple from the corner to tie the game.
With Turkey under pressure Gulsah Duman then made an incredible move. Taking a hand off out on the wing with the shotclock running down and France looking to trap, she arched her way to the hoop for a reverse lay-up and made a superb ‘And-1' play.
It put Turkey 68-65 in front and after Diallo made a free throw, Cora missed two free throws. It gave France the ball with 24 seconds left and two points behind. As Steivenard rimmed out with another triple attempt, Cornelie tied the game up yet again with a rebound put back.
Turkey had a time-out and the ball with 11 seconds left and with a superb opportunity to shrug off the disappointment of watching their ten point lead disintegrate and to still claim their semi-final spot.
However they ran too much time off the clock and as Koc stroked a lay-up home, time had expired and the extra period was required.
Koc did score the first points of overtime but a three by Mercier and an inside score by Diallo put France 73-70 ahead and the pendulum swinging firmly in their favour.
Or at least that was until Kavurmacioglu stroked home her fourth triple of the night and Turkey were back in front with two minutes left.
Stievenard sunk a free-throw to tie only for who else but Kavurmacioglu to step up again from her usual corner and drain her fifth trey with 48 seconds left.
|It was left to Margaux Galliou who just fell one rebound short of a double-double to give France the edge over Turkey|
With 8 seconds left Cakir then missed two free throws and incredibly there was still time for France to drain a three via Mercier to leave the crowd in disbelief.
Midway through the second extra period both teams were still inseparable at 83-83 until a an inside score by Diallo put France ahead with two minutes remaining. Both teams then went scoreless until 18 seconds from the end when Duman went to the line for Turkey.
She made only one and 85-84 behind Turkey fouled to put Mercier on the line who also made one. That gave Cakir the ball for Turkey and unbelievably she made an under pressure jump shot in traffic to force triple overtime and make amends for her free throw misses.
Turkey played with real control during the third overtime period, they made four foul shots to go 90-86 in front while Diallo made three big turnovers or misses in a row inside for the French.
Epoupa then made two big plays to tie the game 90-90 with a minute remaining before Melike Yalcinkaya made two free-throws. As France returned down court Cornelie got a put back to tie yet again and Turkey had the ball with 11 seconds left. They couldn't make the play and it was overtime period number four.
It was Margaux Galliou who proved decisive as he buried a triple for France with 2 minutes left, and then made two free throws to take the score to 97-94. While Cora scored inside to make it 96-97, but France held on for a truly marathon win after Epoupa scored the last basket of the game with an open lay-up.