Italy finished the 2019 Men’s European Championship in fifth place after defeating hosts Poland, 84-72, in the placing game.
Fifth place is a climb of two places from where the team finished at the 2017 European Championship in Tenerife, and showed the strong performances they gave at this year’s tournament.
It was an exciting first quarter as Italy started slowly allowing Poland to take the lead, 7-2, in the opening few minutes, but Italy came back to take the lead for the first time in the game after six minutes. This sparked a 15-4 run of their own, as they finished a high-scoring opening quarter with a six-point advantage, 27-21.
There was only one point to separate the two teams in the second quarter as they went basket for basket, but Poland edged it 19-18, making it a five-point game going into the second half, 45-40 to Italy.
With Sabri Bedzeti on three fouls, a change of line-up came from Italy’s Head Coach Carlo Di Giusto at the start of the third, introducing Giulio Maria Papi back into the game and what an impact he had. He scored thirteen points in the quarter to help his team to a nine-point lead, 68-59, with just ten minutes to play, and then he scored another ten points in the fourth, ensuring Italy won the quarter 16-13, to take the game home and finish in fifth place.
Papi’s dominant performance saw him finish top-scorer of the game with 29 points and 10 rebounds, whilst for Poland, Player-Coach Piotr Łuszyński top scored with 23 points.
Following the game, Italy’s Papi said:
““To finish fifth and with a win is very good for the team, for all of us, for the movement of the sport in Italy and Paralympic sport in Italy. Our objective was Tokyo and it was disappointing not to achieve this, but now we are looking to prepare for the next European Championship in two years and wait for the next Championship.
“Finishing with 29 points would not be possible without the other players. It’s nice to finish as top scorer but now our focus is on next year and to prepare for the next international competition.”
Watch the 5th/6th Placing Game