France blew a big lead but managed to edge Latvia 55-54 on Friday to stay unbeaten and reach the Semi-Finals of the U18 European Championship for Women.
Leading 48-34 near the end of the third quarter, les Bleues nearly ground to a halt and that allowed Latvia to come back and cut the deficit to 55-54 with 57 seconds left.
Neither side scored the rest of the way, allowing the French to escape with a one-point triumph.
"I think my players scared themselves," said France coach Jerome Fournier.
|France tried everything to stop Sabine Niedola but she still went for another douple-double with 19 pts and 10 rbs|
"They showed fear in the final quarter despite having a comfortable lead in the third period.
"We had solutions against Latvia and controlled their star Sabine Niedola.
"I think we have deserved the win but we have to find more serenity and control if we want to go all the way."
Niedola led all scorers with 19 points and she also pulled down 10 rebounds.
Adja Konteh led France with 15 points and drilled the only two three-pointers made by her team.
They missed their other 12 attempts.
Latvia's Kristine Vitola nailed one of Latvia's three-balls 57 seconds remaining to cut the gap 55-54.
After France's Margaux Okou Zouzouo missed a jumper with 29 seconds remaining, Niedola got the rebound only for her team to turn the ball over with 12 seconds to play.
Then just four seconds from the end, Latvia sent Isabelle Strunc to the free-throw line and she missed both attempts but Allison Vernerey got the crucial offensive rebound to seal the victory.
"I didn't think," said Vernerey.
"All I wanted was to hold that ball for as long as possible."
Fournier's team is undefeated, yet he knows his team must improve if they are to challenge for the title.
France outrebounded Latvia 41-29 but continued to struggle from the free-throw line.
They were 11 of 20 (50%) while Latvia were a superior 21 of 28 (75%) from the charity stripe.
"We are not a good offense team," said Fournier.
"We have several players that can hit three-pointers but when the games become hard they struggle."But my team defends very hard, steals the ball, runs, starts fast breaks and scores on the inside.
"I think if my team can start hitting threes and do better from the free-throw line, then I'm sure we will be in the final."
France will meet the winner of the Quarter-Final between Serbia and the Czech Republic on Saturday.
When asked about his next game, Fournier replied: "Every day in this tournament, I have told my players that each day is another day - no matter who the opponent is."