The French National Basketball Team wiped out a huge deficit and withstood resurgence late in the final frame to eke out a 66-59 victory over the New Zealand Tall Blacks in the 2016 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament, Thursday night at the SM Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
Three Les Bleus cagers scored in double figures, with Gelabale leading the pack with 11 points. Diaw and Tillie scored ten apiece.
Both France and New Zealand utilized half-court sets in the opening quarter, not allowing each other to generate offense and create easy baskets through transition plays. Les Bleus went up 10-5 midway into the frame, with Boris Diaw and Joffrey Lauvergne leading the charge, but the trio of Isaac Fotu, Mika Vukona, and Tai Webster sparked a 9-3 Tall Blacks run to wrap up the first ten minutes in their favor, 14-13.
New Zealand sustained rhythm in the following frame by exercising their running game further. The team from the Pacific also waxed hot from beyond the arc, with Corey Webster, Thomas Abercrombie, and Everard Bartlett hitting one apiece. France, on the other hand, seemed to have lost their touch and missed a lot of shots, which saw them score only ten in the quarter. The first half ended with New Zealand ahead, 31-23.
The third canto saw New Zealand establish the game’s first double-digit gap, 35-25, with 8:08 on the clock. The Frenchmen, however, slowly crept behind to trim the deficit, 40-34, but the Tall Blacks’ fiery outside shooting courtesy of Robert Loe and C. Webster kept Les Bleus at bay and finished the quarter with a ten-point advantage, 48-38. Corey, the older Webster, starred for New Zealand with 11 points in the frame alone.
France regained energy in the final quarter, erasing a 50-38 double-digit deficit and suddenly turning things in their favor. Behind the efforts of Diaw, Mickael Gelabale, Kim Tillie, and Thomas Heurtel, Les Bleus established an eight point lead, 60-52, with 3:02 left. New Zealand tried to regain composure, especially on the offensive end, but France’s defense was too much, making way for the latter to go home victorious.
New Zealand were led by C. Webster’s 21 markers.
The Tall Blacks proved their might on the boards, out-rebounding Les Bleus 47-36. Both squads dished the ball almost equally, 12-11, but the error bug bit New Zealand the hardest, as they turned over the ball 18 times compared to France’s 10.
The semifinals picture is now complete. France will face Turkey, while New Zealand will have Canada as their opponents. Both games will be on Saturday, July 9, also at the same venue.
France (66) – Gelabale 11, Tillie 10, Diaw 10, Heurtle 7, De Colo 7, Lauvergne 7, Kahudi 7, Parker 6, Diot 2, Pietrus 2, Moerman 0, Batum 0.
New Zealand (59) – Webster C. 21, Fotu 8, Abercrombie 6, Loe 6, Ili 4, Bartlett 3, Vukona 2, Raukawa 0, Anthony 0, Ngatai 0, Karena 0.
Quarterscores: 14-13, 31-23, 48-38, 66-59.