|23 July 2009|
France made a furious fourth quarter comeback to beat Serbia 68-63 in the U18 European Championship Men 2009, in Hagondange, France.
Trailing 56-47 early in the final period, the hosts went on an 18-0 run to take a 63-56 lead and, with both teams tiring out, they looked the freshest and held on for the win.
After the game, French coach Philippe Ory praised his team for their defensive intensity.
"We played very well. It was a marked improvement on the way we played at that end of the court when we beat them (Serbia) last week (89-86 in a warm-up game)," he said.
And the coach went on to say he had a strategy in mind for his team - to attack Dejan Musli, Serbia's centre.
"We wanted our players to go at him and force him to have to foul - and it worked to some degree," he said in reference to Musli's three fouls in the first half.
Leo Westermann, who finished with a team-high 17 points, was the main instigator in the game's pivotal stretch, hitting a three-pointer to start the spurt and then converting a tough three-point play, another long-range effort before sealing the game with a pair of free-throws in the closing minute.
Serbia will rue their missed opportunities, with Dejan Musli sidelined in the first half because of foul trouble and their inability to make their free-throws (hitting just 10 of 20 attempts).
Early on, Musli made his presence felt by scoring his team's first 14 points as France struggled to find any way of containing him.
The host nation though did a better job offensively and trailed by two, 16-14 at the end of the first quarter.
Serbia's long-range shooters Nikola Rondovic, Petar Torlak and Branislav Djekic joined in the scoring early in the second quarter and Serbia took their first double-digit lead of the game when Djekic picked up a loose ball and threw down a monstrous dunk with six minutes left in the half.
But France hit back right away as Kevin Mondesir and Fabien Paschal got the better of the Serbian defense inside to cut the deficit to four, 33-29.
Evan Fournier then converted a three-point play that saw France down by only one, 33-32.
The momentum firmly with the host nation, Frederick M. Bourdillon then stole an inbound pass and scored a lay-up and Fournier made one of two free-throws the charity stripe for a 35-34 half-time lead.
Serbia went back to their successful tactics after the break, establishing Musli down low and making good on their open threes.
It worked throughout the third quarter and early in the final period as they took control but France then went on their impressive run and, with their troubles from the free-throw line to boot, Serbia had no way to win.