Scola stars as Argentina thwarts France for FIBA World Cup finals berth

BEIJING, China – Age is just a number for Luis Scola as he propelled Argentina to the finals of the FIBA World Cup with an 80-66 win over France at the Wukesong Sports Arena in Beijing, China on Friday, September 13. 

The 39-year-old Scola delivered game-highs of 28 points and 13 rebounds in powering Argentina to the championship round, where it will face Spain in a winner-take-all battle on Sunday, September 15. 

Proving he has plenty of gas left in the tank, Scola knocked down back-to-back three-pointers that gave Argentina a comfortable 74-59 lead as France saw its bid of reaching a World Cup finals for the first time crushed. 

It's the third time in World Cup history Argentina will play in the finals – ruling the inaugural edition in 1950 and settling for silver in 2002. 

Gabriel Deck backstopped Scola with 13 points, Facundo Campazzo put up 12 points, 7 rebounds, and 6 assists, while Luca Vildoza chimed in 10 points for Argentina, which remained unbeaten in 7 games. 

Frank Ntilikina and Evan Fournier paced France with 16 points apiece. 

Cheered on by a group of fans decked out in their national colors, the Argentines made a fast start in their semifinal against the French, who had ousted the US in the previous round.

Argentina opened the game up with a 10-2 run that saw the age-defying Scola dominate the court.

The South Americans led 39-32 at halftime and were never in serious danger of surrendering their advantage after that.

Scola, the grand old man of basketball, was given a huge ovation when he stepped off the court near the end.

Argentina coach Sergio Hernandez gave an insight into what drives the veteran.

"In the locker room, he said, 'We have 25 minutes to celebrate, after that we turn off the noise, no social media, just focus on the next game, it's 40 minutes to make history,'" Hernandez said.

"That's why he is still playing."

France will play Australia for bronze on Sunday and Rudy Gobert, a two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year, had no complaints.

"They were just the better team from the first minute to the last, more aggressive, played better as a team," said the towering Frenchman.

"Complete domination."

With an average height of 6-foot-8, France is one of the tallest teams at the World Cup.

Their height advantage was a weapon against the reigning two-time champions the United States in their thrilling quarterfinal victory.

But it had little effect on the Argentines, who were up 52-38 midway through the 3rd quarter and on the way to a big win. – Rappler.com