France to play Lithuania in EuroBasket final
LJUBLJANA - The Associated Press
French players celebrate their victory after their FIBA Eurobasket championships semi-final basketball match Spain vs France at the Stozice Arena in Ljubljana. AFP photoFrance ended Spain's reign as European basketball champion Sept. 20 with a 75-72 overtime victory behind 32 points from Tony Parker to set up a final against Lithuania.
Two-time defending champion Spain led by 14 points at halftime but Parker made a 3-pointer to give France its first lead of the second half, 64-63, with 2 minutes left.
After Marc Gasol made a jumper, Alexis Ajinca made a free throw for France with 40 seconds left to tie it up, and both teams missed chances to win in regulation. Parker and Antoine Diot then scored France's last 8 points from the line in OT to keep their team in front and Gasol missed a desperation 3 at the buzzer.
Diot was the only other French player in double figures with 10 points, while Gasol led Spain with 19 points and nine rebounds and Rudy Fernandez scored 17. Point guard Ricky Rubio was largely ineffective, with 2 points, one assist and four turnovers.
Lithuania earlier reached its first final since winning the title 10 years ago by beating Croatia 77-62.
Jonas Maciulis led Lithuania with 23 points, Linas Kleiza added 22 and Mantas Kalnietis had 18 as the three of them combined to outscore Croatia. Lithuania center Jonas Valanciunas provided some big defensive plays with five blocks, while Bojan Bogdanovic led Croatia with 15 points.
"It was a difficult game mentally because we knew how important it was," Maciulis said. "Both teams came out shot-shy and we were the first to take the lead."
Lithuania went on an 18-3 run to start the third quarter that decided the game. Maciulis scored two consecutive 3-pointers and made a jump shot during that run, while Kalnietis added seven points. Lithuania also used a big third quarter to beat Italy in Thursday's quarterfinal.
"They came out in the second half and took a great advantage, we could not catch up," Croatia forward Damjan Rudez said.
Lithuania won the European title in 2003 and was bronze medalist at the 2010 worlds but has not made the podium in Europe since taking bronze in 2007 and lost in the quarterfinals at home two years ago.
"It was an important win for our generation, to show that we can play well and win a medal. We are trying to prove to people who thought we were not a good team that we can win," Maciulis said.
Croatia coach Jasmin Repesa said Lithuania "played much better" than his team, which will play for the bronze medal.
"They are bigger, faster, more athletic," Repesa said.
Earlier, Pooh Jeter scored 10 of his game-high 20 points in the fourth quarter to lead Ukraine to a 66-58 victory over Italy and earn a spot at next year's World Cup. It will be Ukraine's first trip to competition.