Poland ground out a 60-53 win over Hungary in Liepaja on Tuesday to seal a place in the Qualifying Round of the EuroBasket Women.
Beaten like a drum in their opening game by hosts Latvia, the Poles bounced back to win two close games, including Monday's late 62-60 triumph over Greece.
Hungary, who went into the game after back-to-back defeats to Greece and Latvia, needed to win by 10 points to leave both sides with 1-2 records and advance to the next stage on a tie-breaker. It appeared they might do just that after going in front by
11 in the second quarter.
|Agnieszka Skobel had eight points for Poland in their crucial win.|
Poland held their nerve, getting timely offensive contributions from Agnieszka Bibrzycka who returned from a sprained ankle suffered in the team's opening night defeat to the Latvians.
Hungary's Zsofia Fegyverneky, who had 13 points, said: "We fought well for 28 minutes but we knew that in order to progress we needed to win by 10 points and that was our downfall.
"I hope that in the next EuroBasket Women, we can be better."
Poland were European champions 10 years ago but they didn't even qualify for the last EuroBasket Women in Italy in 2007.
With that in mind, two wins from their first three games is a sign that good times are on the way back.
Poland coach Krzystof Koziorowicz said: "I am happy we have made it to the next round. Just like Hungary, we have a new team and we don't have much experience.
"But my team played more aggressive on defense and put pressure on the ball.
"I think if we play like this in our next games, applying pressure and keeping our concentration, we can win more games."
With 4:25 remaining in the first half, Hungary had the look of a team that wouldn't be denied.
Anna Vajda caught a pass from Nora Bujdoso and drilled a three-pointer to make it 28-17 in favor of Laszlo Ratgeber's team.
They went to half-time in front 33-27.
Early in the second half, consecutive baskets by Vajda and Katalin Honti took the Hungary lead to 37-27 but Poland didn't allow them to pull away.
Bibrzycka, sensing her team needed a lift, cut the run dead in its tracks and buried a three-pointer to make it 37-30.
That shot eased the pressure because the next time down the floor, Poland's outstanding guard Justyna Jeziorna pulled up and hit a three.
Nearly three minutes into the fourth quarter Hungary again caused some tension on the Poland bench when center Dora Horti followed up a missed shot and scored for a 50-42 Hungarian lead.
Agnieszka Skobel spotted Bibrzycka after a Poland time-out, though, and the UMMC Ekaterinburg ace connected with another jump shot to bring the feel-good factor back.
Poland's defense shut down Hungary the rest of the way.
The Hungarians scored just three points over the last 7:20.
"I am very unhappy we are going home," Hungary coach Ratgeber said.
"Today we had the same problem we had in preparation and in this tournament; we don't have enough players to score.
"We need more offensive-minded players, players that are braver. I hope that we will have this in the future and that these players will grow up."
Vajda had a game-high 18 points and 10 rebounds in defeat.