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France complete OQT sweep, advance to Rio
MANILA (2016 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournaments) – France completed the cast for the 2016 Olympics after they defeated Canada, 83-74, in the Final of the 2016 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Manila. The result meant Les Bleus swept all their four games and earned the last ticket to Rio 2016.
Turning Point: Canada were able to threaten early on, trailing by just 3 points at half-time, 39-36, but France turned up the heat in the third period. Coach Vincent Collet’s crew led by as many as ten points in that quarter, 48-38, and though Canada would try to rally till the final moments, it was clear which team had more quality.
Stats Don't Lie: Canada were able to out-rebound and even score more bench points than France, but Les Bleus compensated for these deficiencies by pushing the tempo and playing great defense. France outscored Canada in transition, 11-3, and also forced 21 Canadian turnovers. In the end, coach Jay Triano’s wards just couldn’t overcome those shortfalls.
Game Hero: Tony Parker looked like he was just cruising in France’s first three games, content to let his other teammates bask in the spotlight. In the Final, however, Parker shone the brightest, scoring 20 of his game-high 26 points in the second half as Les Bleus repeatedly kept Canada at bay. Parker added 4 assists, 4 rebounds, 1 steal and 3 three-pointers to his stat-line while also shooting 9-of-14 from the field, underscoring his value to the French’s triumphant run.
The Bottom Line: France move on as the final team to qualify to the Olympics, and they will join a set of teams that include, among others, defending champions USA and 2015 Eurobasket kings Spain. France lived up to their billing as the highest ranked team in the Manila OQT, and they are expected to have veterans Tony Parker and Boris Diaw for one last campaign in Rio before the two retire from international basketball. Canada, despite missing a lot of key NBA players, were able to show a lot of class and skill in the OQT, and they will take this experience next year when they begin the qualification phase for the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup.