France reached the semifinals of the European basketball championship after beating Greece 64-56 on Thursday, with NBA star Tony Parker spearheading a dramatic French comeback in the game's last quarter.
AP - Tony Parker scored eight of his 18 points in the fourth quarter as France rallied to beat Greece 64-56 Thursday and reach the semifinals of the European basketball championship.
Joakim Noah had a key steal late in the game to send the French into the next round against the winner of Thursday’s late game between Russia and Serbia Spain and Macedonia will play in the other semifinal. Ioannis Bourousis had 17 points and 11 rebounds for Greece, which led 43-40 going into the fourth quarter.
But Parker scored four straight points to cap an 8-0 French run early in the quarter and France never lost the lead again. France outscored Greece 24-13 in the final period.
“I’ve worked too hard this summer and the last 10 years to let it end now,” said Parker, the San Antonio Spurs star who is seeking to lead this generation of talented French players to their country’s first title. Bourousis kept Greece in the game until Nicolas Batum, the Portland Trail Blazers small forward, made two straight baskets with a block in between to make it a six-point game with just over a minute to go.
A pair of free throws by Nikolaos Zisis gave Greece some hope. After Parker and Noah missed shots, Greece lost the ball and fouled Nando de Colo, who made both free throws. Noah then stole the ball, was fouled and made both free throws. De Colo finished with 16 points and Batum added 15. “They really broke our rhythm at the start. They pretty much put us to sleep,” Parker said. “But we got into the third quarter well and we never doubted that we would win.”
The two finalists of this tournament will also clinch slots at next year’s Olympics in London. The next four teams will go to an additional qualifying tournament next year, with three advancing to the games. France, like other semifinalists, is now certain at least of a place in the qualifying tournament.
“This was our first goal, now we want to go straight to the Olympics,” France coach Vincent Collet said.
Greece coach Ilias Zouros said his team ultimately paid the price for being less experienced.
“When you don’t score you have to stop them quickly and we didn’t do that even though we had few team fouls,” Zouros said. Greece and the loser of the Russia-Serbia game will play for a place in the top six.
The winner will play Lithuania for fifth place. Lithuania beat Slovenia 80-77 in the early game.
Date created : 2011-09-15