France edged defending champions Spain 60-57in a dramatic Quarter-Final to earn a spot in the medal round of the U16 European Championship Wome in Kozani and Ptolemaida in Greece.
"This win is a big satisfaction for us," admitted France coach Jerome Fournier after the game. "Spain played very well and made it difficult for us to organize our plays. We fought hard and played our best defensive game of the tournament."
The point guards left their mark on the encounter. Spain's Elena De Alfredo posted 19 points while France's Olivia Epoupa marked 21 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists.
Russia will be Frances' opponent in the Semis.
A very intense first quarter set the tone for a classy Quarter-Final battle. The lead changed sides with almost every possession.
Both sides picked up the intensity level in the second period wiht France holding a slight advantage. Up to that point of the game, their three-point shots had been right on the mark (44.4 percent). Spain used their small advantage in the paint to cut the deficit to one point at halftime (29-30).
They quickly tied it after the intermission (32-32). But France weren't too impressed and Olivia Epoupa's three -point play halfway though the period re-established a French lead (37-41). Ana Faussurier added a triple but the Spanish answered with five points in a row to make it an one possession game 42-44 and at the end of the third period they were still trailing by two points (47-49).
France kept a narrow edge and with 2:34 minutes remaining they were up by two (54-56). They locked down the Spanish on the following possessions and after making some crucial four straight points on the other side of the court, the French suddenly found themselves in a very promising position.
Spain trailed 54-60 and had less than a minute to turn the game around but they were not down and out. A three-pointer by Laura Aliaga set the tone for a last minute turnaround and when France missed their next shot Spain really had the chance to tie the game. But Irene Gari's last gasp attempt did not find the mark and it was all over.
Fournier had a thought or two about Spain too. He said, "I'd like to congratulate Spain for a really great game. They played very well. They have good players and are worthy opponents."