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LODZ (EuroBasket Women) - Turkey ended France's reign as EuroBasket Women champions with a 68-62 overtime Semi-Final win and will go up against Russia in Sunday's Final, in which a gold medal and an automatic place in next year's Olympic Games will be the prizes at stake.

The Turks beat the odds and prevented the French from becoming the first team in 20 years to successfully defend their crown as European champions.

The Soviet Union was the last team to accomplish the feat in 1991.

In the day's first semi-final, the Russians cruised to an 85-53 win over Czech Republic to reach the gold medal game for the sixth consecutive time.

With Turkey Basketball Federation (TBF) President Turgay Demirel looking on, Turkey qualified for their first-ever EuroBasket Women Final. In fact this is the women's national team's maiden trip to a final in any leading international competitions.

Even if they lose to Russia to finish second, the result will rank as the best for Ceyhyn Yildizoglu's charges by some margin.

Their previous best was an eighth-place at the EuroBasket six years ago.

Nevin Nevlin had 23 points to lead the way in the winning cause and afterwards said getting to this point, with automatic qualification for the London Games within reach, was several years in the making.

"This is awesome, this is a huge moment for us, for our team and our nation," she said.

"It was our goal four years ago when we started thinking about the Olympics.

"We knew what we had to do at these European Championships to achieve it. To carry out a plan like this is incredible."

The game was a thriller with France falling behind by many as 10 before fighting back in the second half, tying the game and taking the lead on several occasions.

Emilie Gomis - who came off the bench to lead all scorers with 24 points - and Birsel Vardarli traded baskets down the stretch and the score was tied at 60 at the end of regulation.

Turkey though did not waver in the extra session.

"We never gave up, we never panicked," Nevlin added. "It started with our defense. We believed in our hearts all along that we were going to win and that is what carried us."

Now Turkey, hosts of the 2014 FIBA World Championship for Women, will face a tall order when they take on powerhouse Russia.

Boris Sokolovsky's team made short work of a Czech Republic team that took silver at last year's FIBA World Championship.

The Russians have reached the EuroBasket Women's Final every time since 2001, winning on two occasions.

"We want to get the automatic place for the Olympics," said veteran centre Maria Stepanova who has played in all five finals for Russia in the last 10 years.

"We don't want to have to go through the Qualifying Tournament.

History is on Stepanova's side as Russia's two EuroBasket triumphs have come in 2003 and in 2007 to qualify them automatically for the Athens and Beijing Olympics.

Her team-mate Ilona Korstin was encouraged by her team's all-around performance against the Czechs.

"Our defence was really really good. I'm really proud of the way we all played. Everyone was focused," she said.

Just like Stepanova, Korstin believes the job is not complete yet for Russia.

"Getting to the Olympics is a big source of motivation for us. With our last win (over Latvia in the Quarter-Finals), we did half of our job because we were qualified (at least for the Olympic Qualifying Tournament," she explained.

"Now we are happier and we can get automatic qualification."

France and Czech Republic will play in Sunday's Bronze Medal Game.


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