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Poland Downs Russia In Game 1 Of FIBA World Cup Group Phase, Clarion’s Mike Taylor’s Team Now 4-0 (09/06/19)

Down by as many as eleven points, 40-29, to Russia late in the first half, in game 1 of the Group Phase Round of the FIBA World Cup, late in the first half, the Polish National Team could easily have folded. But Clarion’s own Mike Taylor’s men were not about to give up, not when they had an unblemished tournament record, a determined, never say die mentality. With their cheering fans behind them. Team Poland came away with a 79-74 win, today (Friday, September 6th), at the Foshan International Sports and Cultural Center, in Foshan China. The victory came two years to the day of Poland’s win over Russia in EuroBasket 2017.

Team Poland methodically clawed their way back into the game, cutting the lead to the game. With Mateusz Ponitka canning a pair of free throws and a three at the end of the second quarter, they cut the Russian lead to four points, 40-34 by halftime.

With five free throws by Adam Hrycaniuk to open the second half, Poland moved to within one, 40-39. Poland was within one again at 42-41. But Russia opened up an eight point, 55-47 lead later in the quarter. A 6-2 Poland run at the end of the quarter, with Lukasz Koszarek hitting a three pointer and Damian Kuleg burying three free throws, brought them back to within four 57-53, heading to the final stanza.

With a jam by Aaron Cel, at the 8:15 mark, Poland had its first lead of the game, 61-58. With the score tied at 67-all, Michal Sokolowski put in two free throws, putting Poland ahead for good, at 69-67. A 10-7, Poland advantage, the rest of the way, set the 79-74 final.

Poland was an amazing 35- for-38 at the free throw line, a ninety-two percent success rate.

Poland now leads Group 1, with 8 points and with a win over Argentina, they will secure a spot in the quarterfinals.

The following are some of Coach Taylor’s comments from the post game press conference:

“Really happy here at Foshan, to go on this adventure with our team and our players here in China. I’m so proud of our team, the way that we are playing. Everybody can see that it’s not easy for us.

“Give credit to Russia. They had a great game plan. They came out and physically imposed themselves against us. We struggled for three quarters of the game. I think in the fourth quarter we kind of solved the puzzle a little bit, with better ball movement. And we finally hit some shots and made some plays. So I want to first give respect to Russia and their game.

“But again, this is the competitive will and the heart, the toughness of our team to find a way and to keep competing.”

In the fourth quarter particularly, the Russia pressure and physicality forced us to break plays and when we broke our plays we didn’t really get the shots we wanted. We stuck more to our system, in the fourth quarter. Of course it happened a lot when Lukasz Koszarek was there; he organized the game for us and got the ball where we wanted it to go offensively.

“But I also want to give credit to some of our guys. Aaron Cel struggled in the first half and he really stepped it up in the second half. Again Koszarek and Ponitka, what can I say. We call Ponitka our workhorse and he delivered today, even through the injury.

“I’m really proud of our team and we’ll keep fighting.”

When asked what this win means to Polish Basketball, Coach Taylor said, “I think it means everything. The country can take self confidence from the performance of these players, from a team that we can compete, we can do it.

“We’re in the European Area where there are great teams. Great Teams, Serbia, Lithuania, Spain, France, on and on. The competition is tremendous and we compete. Other teams, other countries have had more achievements, more success and what we are trying to establish is that Poland can do it too.”

“These players, there is no real big star, big name; it’s a great team. It is a great example of what a great team can do, that plays hard and plays together. It’s developed over the years. And I hope it can spark interest and love and passion for the game of basketball in the country of Poland. We hope that these guys can be an example for the next generation of players, that Poland can do it.”

Coach Taylor said, “We got better and better as the game went on. And on offense we stuck more to our system and I think that made the difference in our come back win. It was really hard fought and it wasn’t easy.”

When asked about what he would say to who doubt his Polish National Team, Coach Taylor responded, “We’re not worried about external judgement, external opinion; we’re focused on the internal. We’re focused on being the best team we can be; we’re focused on playing the best game we can play and we believe our best basketball is ahead of us.

“We can play more quality defense, we can play better offense, create better shots offensively for forty minutes. I think this goes back to the point about establishing respect, respect for Polish Basketball. We’re new, we’re the new kids on the block right now and I think people are going to doubt that. But we’re not worried about that external opinion, we just want to be ready to play and be our best. Like I say to our guys ‘be your best when it matters the most’ and our team has responded with heart and toughness and here we are.”

He had praise for Ponitka, who re-entered the game after an injury, “…We call him our workhorse. He’s a leader, he has that it factor, that can raise his level of performance and impact the game in several ways, in pressure situations in big games. He’s been dominant and outstanding for us here in China.

“There was a scramble under the boards. It got really physical… he caught an elbow and cut his lip. He should be OK. But it was a factor. He missed several minutes. And we decided to go to the two guard set-up at that point. …the toughness of Ponitka to come back into the game and make plays. That’s his heart and toughness.”

And he also had praise for Koszarek, saying, “Lukas Koszarek has been the one international level point guard for Poland for years. He’s a great organizer; he’s a great floor general. He helps you move the ball, get the ball where it needs to be. He’s got tremendous experience. After EuroBasket 2017, he was thinking about stopping, retiring from the National Team. He was not with us for (a time) but we convinced Lukas to come back, make a run at the World Cup.”…I’m really, really happy for him that he was able to have a moment like this, of delivering for his team. There is not a guy who does not a guy who deserves it more, for Polish Basketball. He is really a professional. He is a guy that we all love and respect. And I’m very, very happy that he had this moment, today, when it was critical in the fourth quarter.”

As for their next opponent and Poland’s preparation for that game, Coach Taylor said, “…We respect Argentina. Not only this team, but the tradition of Argentine basketball. We will prepare our way. Again, we will try to put together a better defensive effort, a better offensive effort than we’ve shown. I believe we can play better. As we go on, the bar will continue to be raised. We will have to play at a higher level. But what I love about our team is our competitiveness and I know that our guys are going to rise to that challenge.”

(Keep up the Great Run Coach Taylor and Team Poland!!!!)