31 August, 2017
17 September
Belgium Anwill Basketbal Challenge 2016
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Belgium, Poland conclude preparations on a high note

WLOCLAWEK (FIBA EuroBasket 2017 Qualifiers) – Belgium claimed the Anwill Basketbal Challenge trophy on Thursday night by defeating Sweden while the hosts of the warm-up tournament, Poland, prevailed over Georgia for third place. These encounters were the last friendly games these four national teams will play prior to entering the FIBA EuroBasket 2017 Qualifiers race on Wednesday.

Sweden made a superb impression over the two days in Wloclawek starting with the tournament opener, where Tobias Borg poured in 18 points and Ludde Hakanson added 13 to pave the way to a 73-60 win for coach Vedran Bosnic’s men over Georgia, for whom Zaza Pachulia had 15 points in defeat.

Despite suffering the blow earlier this week of losing Quentin Serron for the qualifying campaign because of injury, the Belgian Lions edged out Poland 58-55 in the other Wednesday game behind 18 points from Jean Salumu and 11 from Jonathan Tabu, while Adam Waczynski had 12 points for the hosts in a losing effort.

“We played great in the second half,” said Belgian head coach Eddy Casteels. “We played exactly as we needed to after a weak first 20 minutes. We had more energy, we had some fantastic stretches and I think we deserved the victory.”

While for Belgium this victory was further confirmation that their young players are rapidly stepping up to fill the void created by the absence this summer of some veteran players, Poland were left feeling troubled as their losing streak extended to four games, following three losses at the ERGO Cup in Germany last weekend.

Poland head coach Mike Taylor nonetheless saw encouraging signs in defeat and maintained his optimistic outlook: “I was pleased with many things, especially on the defensive end,” said the American tactician. “This kind of energy is an element we need, while players that came off the bench did very well. This was a step forward in our preparations but we have to play far better on the offensive end if we want to win games.”

Taylor felt vindicated the following day when his team assumed control right from tip-off and clinched an 80-71 win over Georgia, on the back of 17 points from Mateusz Ponitka and 16 from Waczynski, who shot 4-of-5 from three-point range. For Georgia, who played both games in Wloclawek without star forward Tornike Shengelia, Pachulia finished with 17 points and 8 rebounds.

“It was the last friendly so we needed to win,” admitted Poland’s Tomasz Gielo. “In the fourth quarter we maybe lacked a bit of concentration to maintain the big gap but each one of us left his heart on the floor. It's nice to finish the tournament with a victory, it gives us extra confidence for the upcoming games in the Qualifiers.”

Meanwhile Georgia head coach Ilias Zouros pointed out his team can take away positives from the tournament despite the two losses. “We played here against very good teams, this has been a very suitable test for us before the Qualifiers.” Zouros said. “We missed our injured players, however, we did some good things in this tournament. I wish Poland the best of luck in the Qualifiers and I hope that both teams make it to EuroBasket.”

In the game for first place between Belgium and Sweden, the Belgians welcomed back to the line-up their influential forward Maxime De Zeeuw who had missed the Wednesday clash because of a minor injury and, inspired by Jean Salumu’s 14 early points, they built a 48-40 cushion going into the final frame and held on for a hard-earned 56-55 win. Obasohan (Retin) Ojomoh added 11 points for the winners De Zeeuw chipped in with 9 points while Alexander Lindqvist was the only Swedish player to score in double digits, finishing with 11 points.