By Eurohoops Team/ firstname.lastname@example.org
Despite falling in an early 11-point hole, Poland made a big quarterfinal step by defeating Russia, 79-74, in 2019 FIBA World Cup Group I action at Foshan on Friday.
Adam Waczynski with a team-high 18 points and Mateusz Ponitka with 14 points led the comeback charge in the second half. A 14-1 run extended from the third to the fourth quarter turned the game around and improved defense on the opposition’s inside game down the stretch secured the “W”.
With Ponitka out injured in the end of the game, Lukasz Koszarek made two big threes. “It was a difficult situation, but the coach believes in me and I want to give something back to him” said the 35-year-old. “It was a great team victory. We are winning close games, which is important.”
A.J. Slaughter was held to 3/15 from the field and 8 points, but Poland is now 4-0 a couple of days before the game versus Argentina. The only way Mike Taylor’s side will miss the quarterfinals is a loss to Argentina on Sunday combined with Venezuela beating both Argentina today and Russia on Sunday, and point differential falling in the favor of the two other national teams.
“Everybody can see it is not easy for us” said head coach Taylor on the close games his side gets involved. “We struggled for three quarters. In the fourth, Russia’s pressure and physicality forced us to break plays, we did not get the shots that we wanted, but we stuck more to our system and we had a better flow offensively.”
“He cut his lip. He is in the locker room. Doctors and medical staff are taking care of him” added 47-year-old Taylor on Ponitka’s injury. “It should not be anything major.”
The losing side of the affair was in control most of the match, but got in the passenger’s seat instead of finishing off the opponents in the last quarter and did not retake the lead. Mikhail Kulagin poured 21 points including five shots beyond the arc, but was not enough.
“We had a great chance to win the game and advance to quarterfinals” pointed out Sergey Bazarevich. “Players really fought. They showed character in this tournament.”
“We controlled the game for 30 plus minutes, but we allowed them to make a run” mentioned Vitaly Fridzon after his 9 points in defeat. “It is devastating to lose like that. We should have shot better in the end of the game.”
The Russians dropped to 2-2. They need a victory from the Venezuelans against Argentina to retain a chance for a quarterfinals berth with a win over Venezuela on Sunday.
Photo Credit: FIBA.BASKETBALL