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France takes top seed with comeback win against New Zealand


By Ivan Saldajeno

PASAY--France came back from 12 points down to dodge New Zealand's upset bullet, 66-59, to clinch the top spot in Group B of the Philippine leg of the FIBA OQT at the Mall of Asia Arena on Thursday night.

In a battle between Gilas Pilipinas' tormentors, the Les Bleus used a huge 22-2 run in the fourth quarter for them to prevent the Tall Blacks from scoring the tournament's biggest shocker a night after they silenced the pro-Gilas crowd by extending the host team's Summer Olympic drought to 48 years by 2020.

New Zealand leaned on its defense as they held France to only 38 points after the first half-hour, forcing them to miss all of their first 14 tries from beyond the arc.

But the Frenchmen suddenly got his outside stroke going in the fourth as he nailed back-to-back triples from former Minnesota Timberwolf Mickael Gelabale and Kim Tillie capped an 8-0 run that cut what was once a 50-38 cushion by the Kiwis to a precarious four-point lead, 50-46, with 8:24 left in the game.

Tai Webster appeared to have weathered the storm by nailing two free throws with 7:44 to go, but France answered with a 14-0 rally to give them the lead, 60-52, with 3:51 remaining while keeping their opponent scoreless for almost four-and-a-half minutes.

Corey Webster tried to lead one last heave for the Kiwis, going on a 5-1 run by himself to draw them to within four, 59-63, with 30.2 seconds to go, but three charities sealed the deal for the Frenchmen.

With both players leading the late charge off the bench, Gelabale finished with 11 points, while Tillie added ten for France, whose semifinal opponent was revealed in the preceding match as Turkey, who beat Senegal.

[Related Story: Turkey completes OQT semis cast with win against Senegal]

Corey Webster had 21 points for New Zealand, which will face Canada in the other semifinal on Saturday night.

Box Scores:

France 66-Gelabale 11, Diaw 10, Tillie 10, De Colo 7, Heurtel 7, Lauvergne 7, Parker 6, Kahudi 4, Diot 2, Pietrus 2, Moerman 0

New Zealand 59-C. Webster 21, T. Webster 9, Fotu 8, Abercrombie 6, Ili 4, Bartlett 3, Vukona 2, Ngatai 0, Anthony 0

Quarterscores: 13-14, 23-31, 38-48, 66-59

Follow him on Twitter: @IvanSaldajeno