MANILA: France and Canada are to fight for one of the last tickets to the Rio Olympics basketball tournament after reaching the final of a qualifying tournament in Manila on Saturday.
The French, the world’s fifth-ranked team, eliminated eight-ranked Turkey 75-63 despite relatively quiet nights for most of their contingent of NBA stars including Tony Parker, Boris Diaw and Nicolas Batum.
In the other semi-final, the Canadians beat plucky New Zealand 78-72 to also qualify for Sunday’s winner-takes-all final.
“For us it will be a goal to slow them down, to make them play half court, because when you make them run you lose,” French coach Vincent Collet said of playing the young and athletic Canadians.
Diaw, with four points, seven rebounds and two assists in 26 minutes of action, said the French also need to overcome their bad habit of starting slowly.
“Young guys came in to give us a lift for us to be able to win,” he told reporters after the match.
France were led by guard Thomas Heurtel with 17 points on 7/11 shooting, guard Nando de Colo’s 13 and Denver Nuggets power forward Joffrey Lauvergne’s 11 points and five rebounds.
New Orleans Pelicans center Omer Asik, meanwhile, shot 19 points and snatched five rebounds for Turkey. Fellow big man Semih Erden added 11 points and seven rebounds.
Canadian center Tristan Thompson registered a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds as Canada out-steadied the Tall Blacks, who lost starting center Isaac Fotu to a calf injury early in the game.
Canada were led by Toronto Raptors shooting guard Cory Joseph’s 23 points, while forward Melvin Ejim put away the Kiwis with a basket and two free throws in the last minute of the game.
New Zealand were paced by guard Corey Webster’s 21 points and forward Thomas Abercrombie’s 16 points and six rebounds.
The Manila tournament champions will join Australia, Argentina, Brazil, China, Lithuania, Nigeria, Spain, the United States and Venezuela at the Rio Olympics men’s basketball competition next month.
Qualifiers also ongoing in Italy and Serbia will determine the two other teams to contest the Rio basketball gold. AFP