Basketball: French women reach semis over Czechs
LONDON (Reuters) - The French women's basketball team roared back from an 11-point deficit in the fourth quarter to overtake the Czech Republic 71-68 on Tuesday, advancing to the semi-finals of the Olympic tournament.
Led by the inspirational play of point guard Celine Dumerc, France came back after trailing 55-44, taking a 67-65 lead they would not relinquish on a three-pointer by Dumerc with a minute to play and stayed alive in their hunt for an Olympic medal.
"We beat a really, really good team," said France coach Pierre Vincent. "I don't know where we found the energy and the confidence to come back in this game. I don't know. Ask Celine."
Dumerc, sitting next to her coach at the news conference, said she and her team mates just dug deep.
"We had to keep our mind focussed on what we had to do and we found a way to score a basket. I don't know where we found the energy and I'm really, really proud of my team."
Dumerc finished with 23 points to lead France. Eva Viteckova scored 17 points as top scorer for the Czechs.
France, who had gone 5-0 in preliminary play, face a final four showdown against Russia, who edged Turkey 66-63.
The four-time defending champions United States will play Australia in the other semi-final on Thursday.
The Americans defeated Canada 91-48 to extend their Olympic winning streak to 39 in a row, and Australia were 75-60 winners against China.
The semi-final winners will advance to the gold medal game and the losers will play for the bronze.
The Czechs had used a brilliant scoring burst from Eva Viteckova to take a 51-41 lead after three quarters. Viteckova, held scoreless in the first half, accounted for 13 points in the quarter.
After Dumerc led France back, she was able to run the final seconds off the clock, and just before the buzzer threw the ball high in the air and hugged her team mates, all of whom then collapsed to the floor in a group celebration.
France's turnaround began with intensified defensive pressure that finally cooled off the Czechs' hot shooting.
The 5-foot-6 (1.69 m) Dumerc, 30, said she appealed to her team mates.
"Just keep running, keep fighting, keep believing in what you are doing," the charismatic player said. "I said to my team mates, 'we don't want to be crying at the end.'"
Dumerc, who saved France from an upset against Britain earlier in the tournament by sinking a three-pointer to send that game to overtime and another three-pointer to win in the extra period as time ran out, said the Olympics was bringing out her best.
"It's like I'm dreaming. The last shot I scored, I was like, 'again?' Every day I am waking up and thinking I am at the Olympics. And this is making me feel so good and so happy.
"Even if I am tired, I look around and see all these rings everywhere and these athletes. All these special (things) for sport and that is who I am. I love to play the game."
(Editing by Jason Neely and Daniel Magnowski)
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