France Continue To Roll

23.07.2008

France held off a mighty Spain 62-58 to stay perfect at the U18 European Championship for Women.

The win meant that Les Bleus are one of only two undefeated teams in the tournament - Lithuania being the other - and with a minimum of nine points are through to the semi-finals.

Afterwards, head coach Gregory Hanin credited his team's defense for the win.

"Things weren't going the way we wanted on offense but we were able to do a great job defensively to win a very important game," he said.

"Our previous wins were pretty comfortably so it's always hard when you have to make the transition to closer games. But we came out on top tonight and that's the most important thing righy now."

Diandra Tchatchouang had a game-high 24 points and eight rebounds and sealed the win with a pair of free-throws with 18 seconds left.

Captain Allison Vernerey finished with 15 points and 16 rebounds but had her struggles at the free-throw line going eight for 22. However, she made up for it by being the steady anchor defensively and putting France up by four, 60-56, with just over a minute left to play.

"Those players really did a good job for us. They got it done at both ends of the floor when it mattered the most," Hanin added.

Spain fell behind 13-4 early and trailed 21-12 midway through the second quarter. But they battled their way back, speeding up the game and taking every chance they got to run the floor. That approach worked as they cut the deficit to five, 36-31, by half time.

Last year's runners up kept on coming in the second half, tying the game at 40 all on a lay-up by Vega Gimeno late midway through the third quarter.

While they never did take the lead, they stayed close enough down the stretch to pile the pressure on France, who were pushed to their limits for the first time in this tournament.

The Spaniards tied the game for the last time, 56 all, on Marta Xargay's lay up with 3:17 left in the game and while they continued to use the good ball movement that had worked in their favour for most of the game, their shots were way off.

Leonor Rodriguez had 12 points off the bench and Cristina Ouvina added 10 as Spain dropped to 2-2.

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