|22 July 2011|
U20 European Championship
France still hold on to the dream of a back-to-back gold medal after a 68-59 victory over Germany in the first Quarter-Finals pair in the U20 European Championship in Bilbao, Spain.
Tomorrow France will take on the winner of the quarter-final between Montenegro and Italy in the first medal battle of the championship, as the victorious side will get a spot on the podium.
Germany will take on the loser from the same game in hope to improve their best standing in the history of the U20 European Championship that right now stands at seventh.
The French squad used the second quarter to create a difference too big to handle for Germany, and maintained the lead in the second half despite constant attempts of Germany to make it a close game.
A late fourth quarter run helped Germany to pull within five points difference in the closing minutes, but that's as close as it got.
Evan Fournier, the top scorer of France here, climbed back to double-digits and finished with 10 yet on a bad shooting day, with two made shots in ten attempts.
His teammates stepped up just in time as Leo Westermann scored 19 with the vast majority of them in the first 23 minutes, including four bombs from downtown.
Wilfried Yeguete showed he got offense too and more than doubled his tournament average to collect 13 points next to six boards.
Dennis Kramer collected 16 points without missing a single of his six attempts while Daniel Theis added 11 in just 21 minutes.
Patrick Heckmann evened out the bad shooting day of Fournier and collected only six points while making just one attempt in seven from the field.
The underdogs, in their first Quarter-Finals appearance in the 21st century, struggled as expected against the athletic French defense and reached only 48 points until the last 3:30 minutes, while France connected nine three pointers in 50% accuracy.
Germany scored four quick points but then saw the French defense show up its efficiency as two offensive fouls in less than a minute marked the change, as big guy Theis registered his second foul and left to the bench.
Niels Giffey scored the first three pointer of the game, and tied the score at 7-7 but Westermann copied him at the other side and France took off to a five point lead, 12-7.
Germany tightened up their defense as well and forced turnovers but couldn't convert them to points easily, and Patrick Heckmann made it twice to the rim to bring his team just three points behind at the first buzzer, 16-13.
France scored first but Moninnghoff did what he knows best and hit a jumper, but Westermann showed he can do it better and with back to back three pointers set the gap on 25-19 after 15 minutes.
The gap jumped to 11 after Joffrey Lauvergne scored two jumpers to combined five points, but Theis returned from the bench and with a couple of good plays under France's basket kept the gap at 32-23 at the end of the first half.
Westermann didn't lose his flow and with anoter jumper pushed the gap to a new high, 38-26, yet he wasn't done yet.
A steal in a German fast break saw the French sharpshooter continue to the arc at the other side and nail another big shot to reach 17 points already and force Germany to take a time out down by 15.
Theis with another jumper tried to make things difference but when Heckmann hit nothing but air on one side and Fournier found the net from beyond the arc at the other, France maintained the lead and was up 46-30 with four minutes to play in the third.
The French bigs collected points and cut it back to just an eight point game with eight unanswered points, but saw Lauvergne and Henri Kahudi score three pointer, each from a different corner, to write a 52-39 gap after three quarters.
For over seven minutes in the closing quarter it seemed like a done deal as France continued to hold a comfortable double-digit lead, but a pair of out-of-nowhere three pointers by big guy Kramer caught the leaders not ready and made it just 62-57 inside the last two minutes.
Despite their fans keep pushing for one last effort, Germany saw Kahudi break the full court pressure with a dunk and after Moninnghoff air-balled a long range attempt the game was sealed.