PUERTO MONTT (2011 FIBA World Championship for Women) - Three-time champions
USA extended the defense of their FIBA U19 World Championship for Women title after overcoming a 13-point deficit to edge out France
70-64 in Friday's third Quarter-Final at Arena Puerto Montt.
A forgettable start saw the Americans fall behind 26-13 early in the second period but they worked their way back into the game and the fans were treated to a real thriller in the second half when there was little to separate the two teams.
With the win, the USA remain on track to make it four FIBA U19 World Championship crowns in a row. They will face Brazil or Russia in Saturday's second Semi-Final.
France came out of the gates firing on all cylinders as they raced to a 23-11 first quarter lead.
Adja Konteh and Valeriane Ayayi provided much of the scoring punch - they combined for 22 of their team's total 30 first-half points.
A three-point barrage enabled Jerome Fournier's charges to gradually pull away.
Helena Akmouche connected from deep for a 14-5 advantage and soon after France took the first double-digit lead of the night, 21-11, as Ayayi dialled in from beyond the arc.
They had their biggest lead, 26-13, on Jenny Fouasseau's three-pointer early in the second period.
The Americans, meanwhile, struggled to get anything going.
They shot 27 percent in the first half and, when they weren't being stifled by an impressive defense, they made questionable decisions that resulted in turnovers.
However, they turned up the intensity on the defensive end, holding their opponents to just seven second-quarter points and were within 30-25 on Bria Hartley's basket just before the break.
The USA carried the momentum into the third quarter and edged back in front, 31-30, on Ariel Massengale's banked shot.
That lead, however, was short lived as France resumed their three-point clinic.
Ayayi heaved one from near halfcourt to beat the shot clock and then buried one from the right wing for a 38-33 advantage.
Fouasseau banked a tough runner in the lane and later knocked down a deep three for a 47-41 cushion.
The Americans came back behind Kaleena Lewis, who scored four quick points to tie the game with 1:07 to go.
Fouasseau hit a pair of free-throws in the final minute of the period for a 49-47 score heading into the final frame.
It was then the USA's turn to go on a big run.
Lewis got a steal that led to a breakaway lay-up by Breanna Stewart to tie the game and the pair combined to score 11 of their team's points in a 13-2 run that made it 62-51 with six minutes left to play.
Lewis scored inside and out while Stewart used her leaping abilities to great effect, skying in for offensive rebounds and converting them into putbacks.
The French though weren't done just yet and they came back in spectacular fashion with a 13-2 run to tie the game at 64.
Akmouche and Fouasseau buried three-pointers and the latter also made a floater in the lane.
France were within 62-60 after Agathe Degorces made one of two free-throws following an unsportsmanlike foul by Massengale.
Lewis gave the USA some breathing room with a long jumper but Clarince Djaldi-Tabdi and Akmouche scored at the other end to tie the score with 2:22 remaining.
The Americans kept their poise and made the right plays down the stretch.
Stewart hit a pair of free-throws with 1:04 to go and, following a good defensive sequence, Lewis drove strong to the basket to ensure the win.
Jennifer Rizzotti (USA head coach): "Although France lost they left everything on the floor."
"We tried to stay on Konteh and limit her open looks. We went to a zone because we didn’t have a match-up for her in man to man. They hit a lot of threes but we felt they were attacking the basket early in the game and we wanted to get them more stagnant and reliant on the three point shot. Offensively we found a way to get the ball inside and really attack their post players."
"Sometimes that first (knockout) game is the hardest to win because you are tight, and you don’t relax and every possession seems so important."