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Poland reach Second Round after OT thriller over China
BEIJING (China) - Poland booked their ticket to the Second Round of the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 after prevailing in a 79-76 overtime thriller against hosts China for a perfect 2-0 record in Group A.
Poland came up with the big plays when it mattered most with TCL Player of the Game Mateusz Ponitka pouring in 25 points while A.J. Slaughter was a great sidekick with 22 points, 4 assists and 2 rebounds. Damian Kulig chipped in 6 points, including a huge layup late in overtime. China dropped to 1-1 in the group despite Yi Jianlian collecting 24 points and 8 rebounds. China's main playmaker Guo Ailun fouled out midway through the third quarter with just 6 points in 13 minutes, proving a major blow to the Chinese.
Turning Point: In a game that was tight throughout, China looked poised to win the game, up by one point with the ball and 4.2 seconds left. But Pontika stole Qi Zhou's inbounds pass and was fouled as he raced back to win the game. The Polish star split the free throws and the game went to overtime. With the game deadlocked, Kulig faked a three-pointer and drove to the basket for a reverse layup with 10.8 seconds to play. With 9.8 seconds left, China's Zhao Jiwei was unable to inbounds the ball for a five-second violation and Pontika split two more free throws to decide the game.
TCL Player of the Game: Pontika was Poland's Mr. Do-It-All with 25 points on 7-of-10 shooting and 11-of-17 free throws. He also grabbed 9 rebounds while blocking 4 shots and picking up 3 steals - including the huge theft at the end of regulation - and dishing out 3 assists.
Stats Don't Lie: China turned the ball over 18 times compared to just 11 for Poland in 45 minutes. The Chinese also missed 8 of 33 free throws for 64 percent. Poland were able to compensate losing the rebound battle 41-32 and hitting just 5-of-23 three-pointers (22 percent) as they connected on 57 percent of their two-point attempts.
Bottom Line: Poland may have reached the Second Round but that doesn't mean they can relax in their final Group A game against Cote d'Ivoire on Wednesday September 4 knowing the First Round results will accompany them to Foshan. China now know it's do-or-die against Venezuela the same day. Whoever wins that game will join Poland in Group I..
They said: "I am very proud of our team. This is all on the players. This is all on these guys, their heart. It looked several times in the game tough for us and China had the advantage, but we kept playing. Mateusz (Ponitka) came up with a couple of steals. Adam (Waczynski) came up with a steal and it was not easy. A lot of things didn't go our way because of the quality of game from China. Their defensive pressure was excellent, their length gave us problems. We had a difficult time scoring, but I am so proud of our team the way we competed. We played with heart and there was no quit in these players. Again, the ball bounced our way. A game like this is fantastic for fans. It's tough to lose. But the third time's a charm for us. And I'm really proud of the heart of our team. The heart of our team made the difference out there today." - Poland head coach Mike Taylor
"China played a very good game today. This is not the type of game that somebody wants to lose. Unfortunately for them, today it was us who won. Two times in the last four years we lost to the hosts in the FIBA EuroBasket. We lost to France with the last shot, then we lost in overtime to Finland when we should have won. We are happy that we learned our lesson from the last two situations and today we won the game." - Poland guard Mateusz Ponitka
"It was a hard fought game both ways! Exciting game to play in, good win for us going into the next round and I'm glad we got the win. It's an exciting feeling for the country for us as a team, we overcame a lot in just today's game alone and we're happy we have a chance to go 3-0 in the first round." - Poland point guard AJ Slaughter
"Tough game for us, close game down the stretch. It's a very hard loss for us. But the good thing is the players fought hard throughout the game. When we had the lead and when we were down and trying to come back, we all played very hard, and hopefully we can play better next game." - China head coach Li Nan
"We hope to learn from this game. Obviously as a team we want to grow from this game and continue to play at a very high intensity level going forward in this tournament."- China guard Sun Minghui