France end long wait for European title
French players celebrate on the podium after winning the EuroBasket championships basketball final match between France and Lithuania in Ljubljana, on September 22, 2013. France won 80 to 66.
Portland Trailblazers star Nicolas Batum collected 17 points and six rebounds while Boris Diaw had 15 points and his San Antonio Spurs teammate Tony Parker added 12 points for France, who were runners-up to Spain in 2011.
It was a huge relief for France, who had failed to take the title after 13 previous top four finishes didn't produce a crown. And also for Parker, who comes back to play for Team France every summer.
"It's hard to describe how I feel. The journey was unbelievable. I wouldn't change a thing," said Parker.
"I won the title. I'm a little tired. I felt it in the quarters and semis. And before the game the coach said trust your teammates. If you score 10 points we will win the final. And he was right."
French coach Vincent Collet was proud that Parker had finally gotten his title.
"For so much time he has tried with French basketball to reach this trophy. Finally he got it. That's simply the natural reward. But it was not the easiest way," said the Frenchman.
Lithuania were hoping to finally claim a fourth European crown after titles in 1937, 1939 and 2003. But the Baltic side will have to be happy with a second silver after 1995.
Linas Kleiza tallied 20 points while Mantas Kalnietis scored 19 points for Lithuania.
"Today we had a chance to win but they were better than us. We didn't do anything to give ourselves a chance to win," said Lithuanian veteran Robertas Javtokas.
Batum scored 10 points in the second quarter and led the decisive 21-3 French run to close the first half -- effectively taking control of the game with a 50-34 lead at half-time.
Lithuania were able to cut the deficit to 14 points early in the third quarter and late in the fourth, but France would not allow them any closer.
The French dethroned two-time reigning champions Spain in the semi-finals, but the Spanish bounced back to take the bronze medal by knocking off Croatia 92-66.
Sergio Llull scored 21 points while Marc Gasol collected 17 points, eight rebounds and two assists and Victor Claver totalled 16 points.
"We were very disappointed about losing the semi-final against France. Our goal was to take a medal from this tournament. This was our chance. We showed that we are a winning team," said Claver.
The Spanish have won a medal at seven of the last eight European championships, taking gold in 2009 and 2011; silver in 1999, 2003 and 2007; and bronze in 2001.