by Dan Casey
|Damien Inglis did it all for France with 22 points and 14 rebounds, 5 on the offensive glass|
France will compete for their first medal in the U16 European Championship since 2005 after a dramatic 60-56 win over Germany.
Trailing 45-36 with 40 seconds remaining in the third quarter, the French launched a thrilling comeback with Arthur Rozenfeld's three-pointer at the end of the period.
That sparked an 18-1 run that propelled France into an eight-point fourth-quarter lead, 54-46 when Damien Inglis grabbed an offensive rebound and put it in with 2:55 remaining in the fourth quarter.
The Germans would not lie down and after David Taylor and Paul Rigot exchanged three-pointers, Ismet Akpinar hit consectuive three-pointers and the score was 57-55 to France with 55 seconds remaining.
But Akpinar missed four free-throws down the stetch and left the court visibly distraught as Rozenfeld's free-throws sealed France's victory and ignited wild celebrations from the French players and fans.
Inglis led France with 22 points, 14 rebounds and 2 blocked shots. Rigot provided great assistance with 16 points and 7 rebounds. Daniel Mayr top-scored for Germany with 16 points, 6 rebounds and 2 blocks.
French coach Tahar Assed-Liegeon was relieved to get past a dangerous opponent: "We played Germany five times over the last year, and lost four. They're a good team. We tried changing our defense at the end, and it worked. Jean Biog was great - he had some foul trouble early, but in the second half he learned well."
In a tight game throughout, Akpinar had given Germany a 10-9 lead with 5 seconds remaining in the first quarter. France came back in the second half behind blocks from Inglis and Olivier Yao-Delon, and good post play from Luidgy Laporal.
But Germany's offense started clicking and Mayr converted from a pretty Maximilian Ugrai pass. Taylor hit consecutive jump-shots, and Ugrai picked up a loose-ball and converted to give Germany a 26-21 lead before Charly Pontens beat the first-half buzzer to cut the lead to three.
Inglis hit a three at the start of the second half to tie the scores, but Germany answered through a Stefan Ilzhöfer three-pointer and Mayr's strong post play gave them a good advantage. But France's fantastic run turned the tables and set up the French victory.
Coach Assed-Liegeon looked forward to the Semi-Final against hosts Czech Republic, refuting suggestions that the French would be the "enemy" to hometown fans tomorrow: "Not at all, our basketball federations are old friends, and I look forward to the game tomorrow. We will do our best, and we will see if it will be enough."