France Claim Gold With Win Over Poles


France are champions of the A.C.I. Trading Limited U20 European Championship Women after overcoming a brave and very determined Poland in Brno on Sunday.

Florence Lepron (France)
Florence Lepron
Florence Lepron, the excellent shooting guard, exploded for 21 points, surpassing her previous high of 18 in the tournament, to lead the French to a 72-57 triumph although Fatimatou Sacko, Julie Barennes and Yvette Assilamehou also provided invaluable contributions.

Poland, having survived a tense semi-final against Latvia, looked as if they would be run out of the gym early on as France grabbed a 24-10 lead near the end of the first quarter.

The eastern Europeans fought back and stunned their opponents in the second quarter, however, to lead 35-32 at half-time.

Karolina Kaczmarek, who had had her best game in the tournament against France in the group stage with 14 points, was the protagonist in the second quarter for the Poles when she scored all eight of her points.

The beginning of the second half looked promising for Poland, too, when point guard Katarzyna Czubak struck from behind the arc to give her side a 38-34 lead.

Katarzyna Czubak (Poland)
Katarzyna Czubak
That shot, which came one minute and 18 seconds into the second half, sparked the French into life as they reeled off 12 unanswered points.

Lepron's lay-up and two free throws tied the contest, and then back-to-back jump shots from Barennes, and jumpers from both Lepron and Sacko gave the French a 46-38 advantage with 4:41 left in the third quarter.

Polish forward Katarzyna Krezel's shot from behind the arc made it 46-43, but her team would get no closer although they did stay within striking distance.

A pair of Krezel free throws trimmed France's lead to 62-57 with 3:02 remaining in the game.

Twenty seconds later, however, and Sacko delivered a major blow, making her only three-pointer of the game for a 65-57 French advantage.

A pair of baskets from Lepron and one from Barennes stretched the advantage to 71-57 to put the result beyond doubt and secure the gold medal for France.

Fatimatou Sacko (France)
Fatimatou Sacko
Lepron made eight of 17 shots and five of six free throws to lead the French, but Sacko was arguably the top player with 15 points and 14 rebounds - five of those coming on the offensive glass. She also came up with three steals.

Eighteen-year-old Assilamehou picked a good time to have her best game of the U20 European Championships, making five of six shots, including her only three-pointer, for 11 points in 24 minutes.

France have produced some of the top players in the world over the years and on the evidence of this tournament, many more stars are on the rise.

As for Poland, they can hold their heads high after capturing a silver medal. Victory might have been theirs had they had more success at the free throw line. As it was, they converted just 12 of 22 (54.5%) for the game - not good enough to win championships.

Edyta Blaszczak, a shooting guard, struggled more than any Polish player at the line as she sank just three of eight. It's an aspect of her game that she will need to improve to make it at the next level because for the tournament, Blaszczak was a woeful 12 of 27 (44.4%) from the charity stripe.

Magdalena Leciejewska had 11 points to lead the Poles, who were outrebounded in the game 40-29.

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