France, which came into the gold medal game unbeaten, stayed with the U.S. for the first 12 minutes before Parker took over. She scored eight straight points during a 13-2 run that gave the U.S. a 37-23 advantage. Twice the 6-foot-4 Parker grabbed the rebound on the defensive end and dribble up through the defense scoring on the other.
“We always felt like as long as we played our best … we’d be all right,” Bird said.
The U.S. led by 12 at the half and poured it on in the third quarter. France was able to get within 41-31 but the U.S. ended the French’s hope of the monumental upset, scoring 13 of the next 14 points.
On one sequence, Catchings got a steal, passed it to Bird, who hit Moore in perfect stride for a finger-roll lay-in down the lane. It only got worse from there for France, which was making its Olympic debut.
The silver medal was the first for France. French women’s basketball has been on the rise over the past few years.
The victory over Russia in the semifinals set off a wild celebration for the unbeaten French, who have been on the rise in women’s basketball over the past few years. They won the European Championship in 2009 and qualified for the Olympics for the first time since the 2000 Sydney Games where they finished fifth. In this tournament France has already defeated Australia in an overtime thriller and now topped Russia twice.
A win over the Americans would have been incredible.
The French had been led by flashy point guard Celine Dumerc. She has been the catalyst for this remarkable run. Her 3-pointer with 0.2 seconds remaining in overtime helped beat Britain in the preliminary round. She also hit a big 3-pointer against Australia and two clinching free throws in the team’s four-point win over Canada.
The Americans bottled her up. Her only field goal in the first half got France within 24-21 before the U.S. turned up its defense. She finished with just eight points.
With the victory, Moore joined an exclusive club. She’s just the seventh player to win titles in college, the WNBA, the FIBA world championship and the Olympics. Teammates Bird, Taurasi, and Swin Cash are already members.
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