France protect lead to down Turkey

by Kaz Nagatsuka

SAITAMA — Even when knowing you won’t be rewarded any medal, if you’re a competitor you still put your full energy on the court.

France preserved a big lead that it established in the first half and went on to defeat Turkey 64-56 at the fifth-place game of the FIBA World Championship at Saitama Super Arena on Saturday.

Forward Florent Pietrus led the team with 12 points and nine rebounds, followed by center Frederic Weis with 11 points and guard/forward Laurent Foirest with 10.

“Right now, it is so hard to say a word,” French coach Claude Bergeaud said after the game. “Because we are so happy to have finished at the fifth place.

“I’d like to our players. They played with hearts and confidence.”

It was the second highest finish for France in the FIBA World Championship.

It was fourth in the 1954 tourney in Brazil and was fifth in the 1963 competition in Brazil also.

In the game, Turkey was not able to find any rhythm early on offensively, and France quickly built a 20-7 lead at the end of the first quarter, helped by center Frederic Weis, who had six points earlier in the game.

France expanded the lead to 20 when guard/forward Laurent Foirest sank a 2-point jumper inside the paint to the score 31-11 at 4 minutes, 21 seconds left in the first half.

But Turkey would not yield easily and showed a tough comeback in the second half, while the French side slowed down a bit.

Turkey gradually shrunk the deficit as Engin Atsur and Cenk Akyol, who scored eight and six, respectively, in the third quarter only. Turkey was close to France down by four points with 2:13 minutes left in the period.

In the fourth quarter, both sides started rallying offensively and defensively.

Turkey once again got close to France down by five with 1:18 minutes left in the game, but France, that began playing even more physically in the fourth, did not allow Turkey draw near any closer until the conclusion of the game.

“It was a tough game,” France guard Joseph Gomis said. “We started out the game well defensively. But they came back in the second half.”