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Spain put an end to Poland's World Cup fairy tale
SHANGHAI (China) - Poland kept things close for one half before Spain turned up the jets and ran away with a 90-78 Quarter-Finals win at the Shanghai Oriental Sports Center.
This was Spain's sixth straight win at the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019, knocking out Poland from World Cup contention and relegating them to the Classification Round 5-8.
With stingy defense hounding top scorer Mateusz Ponitka all game long, Poland couldn't get much of a rhythm going. Ponitka had just two points in the entire first half, and Poland had to rely on Adam Waczynski's and A.J. Slaughter's combined 17 points to keep within striking distance of Spain.
Coach Sergio Scariolo's wards, however, came out of the half-time break more energized, and they soon erected a double-digit second-half lead they would protect until the final buzzer.
History was made today as well, with Spain's Ricky Rubio officially overtaking Argentina's Pablo Prigioni as the all-time assists leader in the annals of the FIBA Basketball World Cup. Rubio finished with 9 assists in Spain's big victory on top of his 19 points, 5 rebounds and 3 triples.
Turning Point: Spain had a five-point lead after the first 20 minutes of play, but proceeded to kick into high gear in the third period, where they led by as many as 12 points and never looked back. As they entered the final quarter, Spain carried a nine-point lead and kept the Poles at bay the rest of the way thanks to crisp ball movement and sharp perimeter shooting.
TCL Player of the Game: Juancho Hernangomez and Rudy Fernandez were great in this contest, but it was Ricky Rubio who was named Player of the Game given his aforementioned stat-line. Couple that with his milestone playmaking achievement, and it was not a bad night for the 28-year-old floor general.
Stats Don't Lie: Spain got the job done on both ends of the floor against Poland. Coach Scariolo's team stole the ball nine times en route to forcing 15 Polish turnovers and scoring 20 points from those errors. The Spaniards also displayed sublime playmaking with 28 assists.
Bottom Line: Spain's victory pushed them to the World Cup Semi-Finals to face the winner of the game between Australia and Czech Republic. Coach Scariolo's squad have looked mighty strong so far, underscored by their Second Round win over Serbia and this Quarter-Final triumph over upstarts Poland.
Speaking of Poland, their fairy tale run has come to an end, but people will remember them as the Cinderella squad of this entire competition. This generation have put Polish basketball on the map, and everyone has taken notice.
They Said: "It's a great feeling to be in the top four of the world in such a demanding competition with so many great teams. It's a great feeling, especially in a year when we had some problems to build up the team. It doesn't mean we're going to stop, of course. I would say it's a good time to take a day off, rest, enjoy this and then prepare for the next one." - Spain head coach Sergio Scariolo
"I would like to congratulate Poland on a great tournament. They played a really tough game. We put ourselves in a tough spot, but I'm happy we got the win. We played a serious game with some mistakes and we got to better moving forward. Passing Prigioni is an honor. For me growing up, watching Argentina play, it was really nice seeing Manu, Scola and Pablo Prigioni. Being in that same category as him is a huge honor." - Spain point guard Ricky Rubio
"I want to say that I love our team. I'm so proud of how we represented Poland. We've been on a fantastic run. We played for that dream, we played hard and gave our best. I have so much respect for our players. It was tough. We respect Spain. We wanted to try and pull that big upset; unfortunately, tonight it wasn't to be." - Poland head coach Mike Taylor
"It was a tough game for us, for sure, but we fought till the end. I really respect all our players. They never gave up even when we weren't winning. We were always fighting. We were down by more than 10 and even came back. Against Spain, you can't stop everything, but we tried. I'm really proud of the team and where we are. I think this is still a big success for Polish basketball." - Poland guard Adam Waczynski