France are heading to their first Olympic final in only their second ever appearance, as they comfortably disposed of Russia 81-64 at the North Greenwich Arena.
It’s a USA vs. France final, and on the balance of things, from how this tournament has gone – it’s the right final – the right gold medal game.
For France’s Isabelle Yacoubou, it’s a bonus.
“Who cares? They’re the best team,” she said. “We have nothing to lose. We are in the Olympics. We can dream here, I want to keep on dreaming.”
It seemed whatever Russia threw at France, the French had an answer and in the fourth quarter, Boris Sokolovskiy’s Russians were tired. They still have a bronze medal game with Australia to fight for, but that is not what they came to England for.
Sandrine Gruda, a player who, by her standards, has not had the impact she hoped came through with 18 points and five assists to lead the victors in a well balanced scoring attack where six French players scored in double figures.
“We are happy to be in the final,” French captain Celine Dumerc stated. She had 11 points.
“It’s such a great team with a great deal of belief and we came fighting from the start. Hopefully our run will make more women in France play basketball because we have made it.”
Becky Hammon and Alena Danilochkina both led the Russians with 13 points. The only two Russia players in double-digits, scoring-wise.
“We want to leave here with a medal.”
A 10-1 France run highlighted by a spinning floater from Dumerc rocked Russia from the start as Les Bleus started the better of the two teams. They later had their deficit reduced to five thanks to buckets from Hammon as last year’s victors of the Eurobasket Women crown pushed the tempo themselves.
France though had an answer. a Lawson-Wade three, which banked in as time expired gave her side a 24-15 lead at the end of the first and Lawson-Wade hit again in the second to extend the lead double-digits at 29-15.
Anna Petrakova threatened to take away France’s double-digit lead with three, but it was snatched back with a triple the very next play, again from Lawson-Wade as the Montpellier guard went 3/3 from deep in the first half.
Russia though came out of the locker room a changed side. They were no doubt flat in the first half, but showed a mean streak in the second half of play. They cut the lead to two thanks free throws from Natalya Vodopyanova at 42-40, but France responded. The tournament sensation, Dumerc hit a now-trademark three on the third quarter buzzer to give France a 59-51 lead heading to the fourth.
Russia never recovered. They missed lay-ups; missed shots they would normally make. They couldn’t find an answer.
A three from Lawson-Wade with 5:46 remaining to give her side a commanding 70-56 lead was icing on the cake. And the lead only grew.
“You could go down a list of things we didn’t do,” Hammon said. “We just didn’t play well. I wish the outcome was different, but that’s the way it goes in basketball.”