France Squeeze Past Spain Into Final

21 July 2012

U20 MEN

Turning point: Their great defensive effort in the beginning of the final stanza allowed France to go on an 8-0 run and a 9-point lead and they never looked back.  

Game Hero: Hugo Invernizzi led France in scoring with 16 points, hitting three big three-pointers on the way.

Stats Don't Lie: Rudy Gobert provided world-class rim protection once again, finishing the game with all five blocked shots for France, while Spain had only one.

France will face Lithuania in the final of the U20 European Championship 2012 after defeating Spain 66-59 in the second semi-final in Stozice Arena in Ljubljana.

10. Hugo Invernizzi (France)
Hugo Invernizzi took over the scoring reins for France

Livio Jean-Charles made sure his team started strong, scoring five points in an early 9-2 run for France.

However, Alejandro Abrines single-handedly brought the Spanish team right back into the game. He scored his 10th point already in the eighth minute to get Spain within striking distance - 13-14.

Hugo Invernizzi took over for France, scoring two treys in a 12-2 run for his team which gave them an eight-point advantage, before Spain clawed their way back with a 9-1 run of their own to finish the half tied 31-31.

France started the second half with more composure on defence, holding Spain to only two points in the first six minutes of the third period, while Louis Labayrie and Invernizzi did the work offensively to give them a 43-33 lead.

But Spain wasn't done and, once again, came back to cut the deficit to three points after Alejandro Suarez buried one from beyond the arc and back-to-back baskets from Alejandro Barrera and Abrines.

After Spain's forward Daniel Diez opened the scoring in the fourth quarter to make it a one-point game at 46-47, France went on an 8-0 run behind a good team effort.

Diez converted on an and-one play to trim the deficit to six points but Leo Westermann answered with two points at the other end (57-49).

With France leading 59-51 and just over a minute remaining in the game, Jaime Fernandez scored a lay-up, followed by a Jose Pozas steal and a basket to, yet again, bring Spain within two possessions (55-59).

But it proved to be too little too late, as Spain committed a turnover and didn't get the opportunity to come any closer when Fernandez's pass was intercepted by Kevin Thalien.

"The key today was being our intense on defence," said French coach Jean-Aime Toupane.

"The Spanish team plays fast, but we managed to keep our rhythm throughout the game. This is great. It's never easy to reach the final, but the most important thing is to win it."

Invernizzi led the team in scoring with 16 points, Leo Westermann chipped in 12, while Rudy Gobert finished the game with 7 points, 10 rebounds and 5 blocked shots.

"We played with heart. We missed one of our best players Axel Toupane, but the heart was the key for us," said Invernizzi.

For Spain, Diez had a huge double-double of 17 points and 13 rebounds, while Abrines scored 15 points in a losing effort, before walking off the court with an injured ankle late in the game.

France will meet Lithuania in the title game Sunday, while Spain will play Serbia for the bronze medal.


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