It was all to play for in the 5-6 Place game between Poland and France on day eight of the 2021 European Championships in Madrid, Spain, as the winner would pick up the last zonal qualifying spot for the 2022 World Championships set to take place in Dubai next year.
Poland came out the quicker of the two and pushed out to a first-quarter lead, 23-13, as the French struggled to contain Poland’s scoring threats. Both teams were in an offensive rhythm in the second until three minutes before half-time when France went on a 6-0 run to bring the deficit back to six points at the half, 29-35. The French team continued to keep it close and took the lead briefly midway through the third, although Poland opened up a three-point advantage going into the fourth. As the minutes ticked away the pressure for both teams became more intense and you could feel the atmosphere in the venue sensing this would go down to the wire. With five minutes to play, France had pulled level and from then onwards the lead exchanged hands numerous times, with both teams scoring freely but unable to get the defensive stops needed to open up a gap. With 23 seconds left on the clock, Poland went up by one. France’s Soufyane Mehiaoui then got fouled on the last possession of normal time and was sent to the line with only 3 seconds left to play. He hit his first free-throw to tie the game but missed his second which meant the game went into overtime, 64-64.
Neither team were able to take control in overtime with both having their moments leading the game. Poland had a one-point advantage when France took a time-out with 21 seconds to play. Nicolas Jouanserre knocked down a perimeter shot to put the French back up by one with 6 seconds on the clock. Poland took a time-out and managed to get off a shot from the resulting play, but it didn’t drop and Polish hearts were broken as France celebrated a place at the World Championships for the first time since 2010, winning 79-78.
Jouanserre hit 37 points for France and Mehiaoui ended with 15 points and 14 assists. For Poland, Krzysztof Bandura top scored with 29 points, Dominik Mosler had 18 points and 12 rebounds, whilst Mateusz Filipski was one away from a triple-double with 15 points, 9 rebounds, and 10 assists.
In the 7-8 Place game, hosts Spain, recovering from the disappointment of missing out on a spot in the semi-finals, got a consolation win against Austria to finish 7th. The teams traded baskets early on and with just over three minutes gone the score was tied at 10-10. Spain then got into their stride and shooting at 76% from the floor compared to Austria’s 25%, went on a 14-0 to lead 24-10 at the end of the first. A close second quarter, 18-17 to Spain, and a low scoring third quarter, 10-10, meant Spain went into the last period with a healthy advantage which Austria were unable to reduce, as the Spanish ran out comfortable winners, 71-49.
Julio Vilas (16 points), Alexis Ruiz (13 points) and Pablo Zarzuela (12 points) for Spain. Hubert Hager with 21 points and 13 rebounds for Austria.
The 9-10 Place game saw a match-up between Israel and Switzerland. Buoyed by their hard-fought win over Lithuania in the last crossover match, Israel carried on the momentum into the opening quarter of this game storming out to a 24-10 lead. Switzerland regrouped to win the second quarter 14-12, and the third 18-11, to bring it back to a five-point game going into the final quarter. Three minutes passed before the first points of the fourth were scored and with just over five minutes to play, it was a three-point ball game, 51-48 to Israel. Despite having the opportunities, Switzerland went scoreless for the remainder of the game as Israel put together an 11-0 run to get the win and secure 9th place, 62-48.
Israel’s scoring trio were Asael Shabo (24 points and 15 rebounds), Shay Barbibay (17 points) and Amit Vigoda (12 points). Nicolas Hausammann top-scored
for Switzerland with 18 points whilst Husein Vardo hit a double-double of 12 points and 13 rebounds.
The 11-12 Place game was already decided due to the withdrawal of Turkey from the competition and the 20-0 forfeit going to Lithuania, resulting in 11th place to Lithuania and 12th to Turkey. Both teams will be relegated to Division B.
Visit the event webpage for more information on the 2021 European Championships.
Photo Credit: Steffie Wunderl.