LJUBLJANA (EuroBasket/FIBA Basketball World Cup) - France finally captured their elusive first continental crown by beating Lithuania
80-66 to win EuroBasket 2013 and will head to the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup as European champions.
Nicolas Batum led the way for the French with 17 points, six rebounds and two steals while Boris Diaw added 15 points, six rebounds and four assists and Tony Parker finished with 12 points.
"It's hard to describe how I feel. The journey was unbelievable. I wouldn't change a thing," Parker said afterward.
"I won the title. I'm a little tired. I felt it in the Quarters and Semis. And before the game coach (Vincent Collet) said 'trust your teammates'. If you score 10 points we will win the Final. And he was right."
Lithuania's veteran big man Robertas Javtokas said his team let their opportunity slip.
"Today we had a chance to win but they were better than us," he said.
"We didn't do nothing to give ourselves a chance to win. I don't know what more to say. We let them feel the game and we lost the game."
The 2011 finalists France finally took the top step on the podium after 13 previous top-four finishes came just short of glory.
Lithuania were back in the Final for the first time since winning the gold medal back in 2003. The Baltic side was hoping to make it a fourth title following the other two crowns in 1937 and 1939. Instead, it will be a second silver to go along with the one they won in 1995.
Linas Kleiza tallied 20 points in the loss while Mantas Kalnietis had 19 points, four rebounds and two assists.
After a poor showing in the Semi-Final against Spain, Batum started out on fire, hitting a number of shots and wreaking havoc defensively.
Lithuania were able to stay in the game thanks to their outside shooting, trailing 11-10.
Les Bleus pulled away for a 17-10 lead when Kleiza began to stamp his authority on the game with a three-point play, a three-pointer and another score and Kalnietis hit a driving lay-up to put Lithuania in front 22-19 after one quarter.
Kleiza continued his great start and hit a number of big shots before heading to the bench for a breather with his team up 29-27. But no one stepped up for Lithuania and the French collective, including a still-hot Batum, went on a 21-3 run to close the second quarter.
The French also got a three-pointer at the halftime buzzer by Antoine Diot which came after the Lithuanians botched up an in-bounds pass with 0.9 seconds left giving the ball to Les Bleus, who went into the locker room up 50-34 at the break.
Lithuania were able to cut the margin to 52-38 early in the third but it was Diaw's turn to take over the scoring duties and the power forward tallied 11 points in the period. France would increase the lead to 22 points, 64-42, and the gap was 68-50 after three quarters.
Parker scored eight points in the final period as France did not let Lithuania get any closer than 14 points the rest of the way and the French were left to celebrate their much-awaited title.
Parker was named the tournament's MVP and headlined the All-Tournament Team that also included Lithuania's Kleiza, Slovenia guard Goran Dragic, Marc Gasol of Spain and Croatia's Bojan Bogdanovic.
For full and in-depth coverage of EuroBasket 2013, go to the official website http://www.eurobasket2013.org.