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32 Tima Pouye (FRA), ESP vs FRA
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Pouye's strong leadership revitalizing France

Sopron (FIBA U18 Women's European Championship 2017) - During a rollercoaster ride of a tournament, there have been moments when a nervous France looked on the brink of relinquishing their title. They endured an erratic Group Phase, notably a big loss to Italy, and were in a major hole against Russia in the Round of 16.

In that game, France were struggling badly and it appeared an inglorious end to their title defense was imminent. However, somehow, France rediscovered their championship mettle in a thrilling comeback victory and it has been the tonic they desperately needed.

In the Quarter-Finals against tournament favorites Spain, a physical France overwhelmed their opponents by lifting their vaunted defense a notch. After such an imposing performance, France has issued an ominous warning that they had rediscovered their best at the business end of the tournament.

The catalyst has been France captain Tima Pouye, who was a major key in her team's revival with clutch performances against Russia and Spain. She found her touch after a tough Group Phase, where the shooting guard struggled badly from the field and was unable to crack double figures in any game.

Perhaps Pouye was fatigued having played in the recent FIBA U19 Women's World Cup, where she had a breakout 15-point performance against the mighty US in the Quarter-Finals. However, with pride on the line in Sopron, Pouye dug deep against Russia with 15 points and 7 rebounds. More importantly, she hit a couple of important three-pointers to underline her importance.

Pouye followed up that effort with a hardnosed all-round game against Spain. She finished with 12 points and 8 rebounds but her intangibles can't be reflected on the stats sheet. The 18-year-old made all the right plays in the big moments and produced tenacious defense to stifle Spain.

Quite clearly, Pouye relishes the spotlight and thrives when the pressure is intensified. "I like to hit clutch shots in the big games," she says. "I think the bigger the situation the better I play and that goes for our team. We enjoy the big stage."

Pouye's tenaciousness sets the tone for her teammates, who aren't necessarily flashy but play united when on song. "I have a simple but effective leadership," she says. "I bring the will to win and I want my teammates to follow that."

New goal #fibaU18 🏀🇫🇷 #europeanchampionship

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At 5ft'10in (1.77m), Pouye is a good size at her position and has a versatile two-way game. She plays ferocious defense and on offense can score in many different ways although her shot has been streaky in the tournament.

However, right now, Pouye is focused solely on team success and France's Semi-Final clash with surprise packets Serbia, who are playing with boundless energy. Pouye says her team will need to sustain their defensive intensity to beat the confident Serbians.

"Against Spain, we really emphasized about being physical and winning the rebounds, which was a big reason why we won," she says. "Our defense is our identity not only as a team but it is how French basketball teams play. We will need to play even stronger defense against Serbia and on offense we have to find the best shot."

Ever the team player, Pouye hopes her career will be defined by championship glory. "I want to win as many titles as possible at the highest possible level," she says. "Here, it's all about defending the title and we will do everything we can to make that happen."