France have qualified for the FIBA Europe U18 European Championship final for the fourth time in their history after beating the Netherlands (60-47). They will meet Russia in a repeat of the 2002 final, after having qualified by defeating Serbia (75-69).
Spain will meet Turkey in the match for fifth place after seeing off Italy (75-61) and crushing Croatia (92-43).
In the relegation group, with the Czech Republic beating Poland (58-54) they have saved their place in Division A.
In the first semi-final match Russia were behind for most of the game but found their touch during the last seven minutes of the match to overcome Serbia.
Zhanna Byarzova (20 points) from Russia hit 3 three-pointers during the final quarter which also included the one that put Russia in the lead for good (69-68) with five minutes left to play in the game.
The Russians then stepped up defensively and stopped the Serbian play-maker Aleksandra Stanacev (23 points) from getting to the basket.
As a result Serbia's only point in the final five minutes came from a split pair from the charity stripe.
The Russians constructed their victory by using their bench well and taking care of the basketball with just 9 turnovers compared to 15 from their opponents.
You can watch the FIBA highlights from the match:
The semi-final match between the Netherlands and France unfortunately was not a classic match. France won (60-47) but had to wait until the final quarter to break down their opponents with a 28-7 run.
The reason for the game was played this way was because this generation of players know each other well since their first meeting at U16 level in 2010, in a game which had 62 free throws.
Since that game both teams have changed and changed their style of basketball and are in 2012 among the elite of youth international basketball.
However the Netherlands are still less experienced than France when it comes to big games. This showed in the final quarter when the Dutch team suffered a 0-10 start that cost them the game. Yet they had dominated France in the third quarter and also had an 8-point advantage.
For France Olivia Epoupa and Lidija Turcinovic had their moments and while Valeriane Ayayi was impressive with 12 points and 12 rebounds. But it was the hard work of Aby Gaye (14 points) that made the difference for France.
Gaye did all the small things that are not recorded in the statistics that stopped the Dutch duo of Isabella Slim and Kourtney Treffers from having a free run, especially in the final quarter.
You may read our match analysis report and watch the highlight video by FIBA Europe below:
All started well for the Netherlands with the first points of the game by Kourtney Treffers with the first attack of the game. France did not need much time to get going with Olivia Epoupa storming down the court and feeding a nice pass to Valeriane Ayayi who scored.
France slowly stepped on the accelerator and were on their way (9-2).
A time-out was called by the Netherlands to stop France and change defensive systems. The Netherlands started to mix their zone defense with "2-1-2" half court press.
France struggled a little bit but still had a (17-6 ) lead by the end of the first quarter because the Netherlands were unable to score in the last six minutes.
The Netherlands' patience in their energetic defense started to pay as France stopped scoring. The Netherlands started to hit with fast breaks and finished the quarter with back-to-back scores by Emese Hof (22-26).
The third quarter was Netherlands youth basketball at its best, excellent defending, fast transitions and a master class in the art of "catch and shoot".
The Netherlands went on a 15-2 run. When Kalziena Guijt hit a three on the buzzer, the Netherlands were in charge (40-32) and flying.
France were a different team in the final quarter. They stopped the Netherlands from scoring a single point during the first four minutes while putting together a 10-0 run to regain the lead (42-40).
The Netherlands were simply beaten at their own game. France were able to break the zone and the press and the Netherlands lost their discipline.
The French players then used their experience to blow away the Netherlands with Gaye dominating the paint.
France led (51-45) with three minutes to play and finished the game hitting 9-from-10 shots from the charity stripes.
For the Netherlands the double-overtime victory in the quarter-final was also a factor as they were unable to compete physically at the end.
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