France sneaked into the quarter-final round in the last minutes with a 69-65 victory over Poland in Group E of the OMNITEL U18 European Championship at Siemens Arena in Vilnius, Lithuania on Wednesday night.
A great finish in the closing minutes gave France a 2-3 record to create a three-way tie with Poland and Spain that kept the last out of the qualifiers group, while Poland finished 3rd.
|Rudy Gobert was aggressive on both sides of the court for Les Bleus|
In the final round France will take on Russia while Poland face Serbia.
The only way for the French side to advance was to beat Poland, while their opponents would have finished 3rd anyway even with a small loss as it eventually happened.
Nevertheless inside the last quarter France was down by 8 points, but found the way to create a big come back and take over right before the buzzer and take the ticket to the final round.
Rudy Gobert collected 13 points with 9 rebounds as well as Thomas Ceci who scored 13 and Hugo Invernizzi who reached 11.
Michal Michalak played big minutes for the first time in the tournament and for the first time reached double-digits to lead his team with 15 points. Tomasz Gielo added 13 and 6 boards.
A close first quarter didn't feature any run, until Ceci and Gobert pushed France to a 25-17 lead early in the 2nd quarter.
Michalak and Karnowski combined 8 points in a row to tie the score, but France had the final word before the half as Livio Jean-Charles scored 4 points and Invernizzi added a three pointer to reach the break up 39-31.
Another combined effort by the Polish shooter and big man pulled their team right next to France with a 42-42 tie, but Invernizzi scored again from the arc to keep France on top.
The lefty Gielo combined 5 points in a row early in the last quarter to finally put the Polish side on top, and with a great momentum reach an 8 point lead after a 13-0 run but just before it was too late France, reacted.
Gobert stepped up and was the main factor behind the big come back, while Poland seemed out of energy.
The big French laid a couple of short range buckets with a soft touch to save his team from early elimination with their biggest run of the game, and 11 points a in row announced a 67-62 French lead, enough for the win.