France will join Spain in the 2011 Eurobasket final after defeating the previously unbeaten Russia 79-71 in Kaunas.
Tony Parker, who led all scorers with 22 points was in tears as the final buzzer ended. It’s only the second time in history that the French will be in the final.
Andrei Kirilenko paced Russia with 21. With this win, France has secured their birth at next years Olympic Games in London while Russia will settle for the Olympic Qualifying Event.
“I’ve been chasing this for 11 years,” Parker said. “I had tears in my eyes at the buzzer, and when I knew that we won the game I was so happy.”
In a fast tempo first ten minutes, where buckets were constantly being traded, France’s Parker was the difference as his nine points gave his side a 17-16 lead going to the second quarter.
Semen Antonov tied the game at 20 with a long two-pointer, but France would fight back. Mickael Gelabale scored in transition adding to a pair of foul shots from Florent Pietrus gave France a 24-20 lead with four minutes of the second played.
Sergey Monya, a player who had come up big late on for his side, narrowed the gap to just a point with a triple and Victor Khryapa gave Russia a 27-26 lead mid-way through.
It was France though who had the last laugh as Parker drilled a three-pointer to give the French a 39-31 lead, and even though Vitaliy Fridzon narrowed the gap with a triple of his own, France went into the interval with a 39-34 lead.
Russia stormed out the blocks in the third period, a Timofey Mozgov dunk tied the contest at 39, as France lost momentum
France pulled away in the third, in what was a closely fought quarter. Joakim Noah gave his side a 51-45 cushion and Ali Traore added a two-pointer close to the bucket to give France a 55-47 lead hading to the fourth quarter.
Russia looked out of ideas. France quickly built a double-digit lead – and a Nicolas Batum dunk on Monya plus the extra free-throw was icing on the cake.
An Aleksey Shved three-pointer on the final buzzer was meaningless.
“We are very happy to have qualified to the Olympics in London. It was our goal. We are also delighted that for the second time in our history we will be playing in the Eurobasket final,” France coach Vincent Collet said at the post-game press conference.