Slaughter, Ponitka lead Poland back to the EuroBasket quarter-finals after 25 years

2022-09-11 12:09

Despite trailing in the second and third quarter, Poland saw captain Mateusz Ponitka pull off an all-around game against Ukraine, pushing his side to the EuroBasket quarter-finals. 

Credit: FIBA

In their first-ever encounter in a EuroBasket final phase, Ukraine and Poland battled it out until the end. That's when Mateusz Ponitka and AJ Slaughter made some crucial plays and free throws, handing their team the 94-86 (24-21, 18-24, 27-22, 25-19) win that seals their EuroBasket quarter-final berth.

Poland's last appearance in the quarter finals dates back to 1997. The Poles will play Slovenia in the quarter-finals next Wednesday. 

Ukraine have far more recent experience of making it to the quarter finals, getting there in 2013 and punching their ticket to the following year’s World Cup in the process. But this time, Svi Mykhailiuk came up short (0/8 three-point shots), Alex Len didn't contribute at all, leaving Vyacheslav Bobrov and Issuf Sanon do the heavy lifting. 

Player of the Game
Mateusz  Ponitka
Mateusz Ponitka
Points 22
Accuracy 6-16
Rebounds 9
Assists 6

On the other end, Mateusz Ponitka started the game slow in the first half, but geared up in the closing minutes. The Reggio Emilia forward had a full stat line consisting of 22 points, 9 rebounds and 6 assists. AJ Slaughter, in his third EuroBasket appearance, added 24 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists for the tournament's most pleasant surprise until now. 

Aleksander Balcerowski and Mateusz Ponitka gave Poland an early lead (14-10) six minutes into the game.

AJ Slaughter scored 11 quick points on 3/4 three-point shots for his side, but Poland were reckless with the ball in their hands, allowing Ainars Bagatskis' men to run in transition. Ukraine produced 8 points off fast breaks in the first quarter that saw Poland maintain a close (24-21) edge. 

Poland's carelessness continued in the second quarter, but the team coached by Igor Milicic somehow managed to counterbalance it with some steals of their own and consistent three-point shooting. 

While Svi Mykhaliuk was having a day off, Vyacheslav Bobrov (13) and Issuf Sanon (7) combined for 20 points in the first half, allowing Ukraine to keep the lead. Milicic called a time out as soon as Poland went down, however, the Ukrainians got off to a 10-0 run.

Svi Mykhailiuk and Mateusz Ponitka tried to be more influential in the game, as the former Pistons and Raptors guard scored five straight points, while the former Zenit forward replied with some iso plays. However, no team was able to break the game open. 

Bobrov and Pustovyi made it 59-52 for Ukraine, before Poland capitalized on two close out offenses and an open look from Sokolowski from distance. In less than one minute, Poland tied it at 59 midway through the third quarter. 

Aleksander Dziewa picked up Poland's 12 offensive board and scored the basket and the free throw that gave his team their first lead in the second half. Jakub Garbacz hit 3/3 free throws and a dagger to keep Poland up (72-70). Ponitka came up big with five points which used as the perfect moral booster for Poland. 

Sokolowski improved his team's three-point percentage even more, making it a six-point contest (84-78). Ponitka followed suit, at a time when Ukraine were unable to score. Balcerowski was fouled out with three minutes left to play, but Ukraine weren't eager to give up.

Pustovyi and Mykhailiuk kept their side afloat with six quick points (84-87) and 92 seconds remaining. Ukraine couldn't come any closer despite Mykhailiuk sinking a couple of free throws and getting another chance in transition. Nevertheless, his missed lay up essentially decided the game's fate. 

With 30 seconds left, AJ Slaughter made 2/2 from the stripe, giving Poland the guarantees to finish the game comfortably (94-86).  

Ukraine: Vyacheslav Bobrov 15 (4/7 FG, 4/6 FT, 4 REB), Artem Pustovyi 13 (6/6 FG, 1/1 FT), Issuf Sanon 13 (4/9 FG, 8 AST), Svi Mykhailiuk 12 (4/14 FG, 0/8 3PT SHOTS, 4/5 FT, 8 REB, 4 AST), Ivan Tkatchenko 10. 

Poland: AJ Slaughter 24 (8/17 FG, 4/4 FT, 5 REB, 4 AST), Mateusz Ponitka 22 (6/16 FG, 8/10 FT, 9 REB, 6 AST, 3 TO), Aleksandar Balcerowski 14 (5/8 FG, 2/2 FT, 3 REB), Michal Sokolowski 13 (4/9 FG, 3/5 FT, 5 REB).


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