KLAIPEDA/PANEVEZYS (FIBA U19 World Championship for Women) - A triumphant France overcome Spain to reach their first-ever Final at the FIBA U19 World Championship for Women and will now fight it out for the top of the podium against defending champions USA who sailed past Australia in their Semi-Final match-up.
France wrote a new chapter in their youth basketball history after asuring themselves of landing on the podium at the U19 Worlds Women for the first time after an absorbing 62-58 success against Spain.
In a pulsating contest, France inflicted a first tournament defeat on their crestfallen opponents, who missed the opportunity to reach the Final of the competition for the third time in a row.
France moved into an early 16-10 lead but by halftime Spain had found some rhythm to work their way into a slender one-point advantage.
Spain were still in the ascendency when they returned to the court as Astou Ndour made two quick scores, but Lidija Turcinovic - back after missing the Quarter-Final victory over Brazil - led the French renaissance.
Her converted three-point play was the highlight of a 13-4 French run and when Valeriane Ayayi made a triple to put her team 51-44, it looked a long way back for Spain.
However, Ndour - who finished with game-highs of 27 points and 10 rebounds - had other ideas, producing a string of plays at each end of the court helped to help Spain set up a dramatic finale.
But France and primarily Turcinovic, who paced her team with 13 points, had the last say as she made a huge three-pointer in the last minute to help swing the game back Les Bleues' way.
A devastating and mesmerising spell by the dynamic Breanna Stewart provided the launch-pad for the USA to cruise to a 77-54 victory against Australia and reach the Final of the FIBA U19 World Championship for Women for the fifth time in succession.
Stewart gave a clinic in how to play a near-perfect inside-outside game, as she caught fire with 14 points in just four minutes as USA powered their way to an unassailable position against the shell-shocked Gems.
With underdogs Australia buoyed by a morale-boosting start to the game which witnessed them take a 20-17 lead in the second quarter, Stewart simply took over the game.
She sparked a magical finish to the first half for the five-time gold medallists who swept their opponents aside with a monumental 21-0 run.
Australia had no answer to Stewart who executed in transition without missing a beat. She made a couple of three-balls from the wings, scored inside with a beautiful spin move to the hoop and converted on the fast-break too.
Not that it was all about Stewart, who eventually finished with 23 points, since Nia Coffey grabbed four steals and did a good job defensively.
Stephanie Talbot had 11 points, six rebounds and five assists for Australia.
Russia finished their campaign in Lithuania by wrapping up ninth place with an exciting 83-80 victory over Netherlands, boosted by a fantastic contribution from Olga Novikova. The shooting guard recorded a stellar 18 points, eight rebounds, five assists and three steals as Russia held on to their slender lead in the last quarter. Laura Cornelius and Kourtney Treffers shared 43 points for the losing team.
Serbia took 11th place with an 84-36 destruction of Lithuania as Aleksandra Crvendakic enhanced her reputation by signing off her participation with 12 points, five rebounds, five assists and five steals.
The fight for a top-six finish started for the losing quarter-finalists, with Brazil and China securing the wins they needed to lock horns for fifth-place on the last day of the competition.
Brazil nervously took a 70-63 success as Canada almost overturned a disastrous 31-6 start. Jamie Weisner made it a one-basket game with 30 seconds remaining en-route to 30 points, but 10 missed free-throws hurt the Canadians, as did 26 points from Brazilian captain Isabela Ramona.
China eased their way past Japan 70-49, trashing their Asian rivals on the glass 64-37 as their superior size and strength proved a decisive factor. Sijing Huang led the way with 15 points and frontcourt partner Liting Zhang pulled down a mammoth 17 boards.