Poland Hold Off Late Rally To Beat Sweden


Poland head coach Andrej Urlep will leave Sweden with a huge sigh of relief as his side managed to escape from their EuroBasket 2007 qualifying opener with a late victory against the home side.

Leading the entire contest, Poland surrendered their advantage late in the fourth quarter and seemed destined for defeat. However, veteran leadership from Adam Wojcik and Jeff Nordgaard along with some clutch three-point shooting saw Poland turn the game back in their favour.

"We are happy because we knew this was going to be a tough game," said Polish coach Andrej Urlep. 

Mats Levin (Sweden)
Sweden's Mats Levin had 16 points and four assists in a losing cause.
"We were ahead several times in the game but Sweden kept coming back."

Poland dominated the contest from the opening tip-off.

They scored the first four points of the game and had opened up an 18-9 gap after just seven minutes.

A Wojcik jump shot after 13 minutes gave Poland their first double digit lead (27-16) and Sweden looked in trouble.

"We usually play good defense, but not today," said Swedish coach Kostas Flevarakis. 

"That was the key to the game. We didn´t play at all as we were supposed to in the beginning of the game."

Swedish guard Mats Levin agreed.

"Defensively this was one of our worst games. Offensivly we played okay at certain points of the game."

Flevarakis' men, however, did not give up hope and kept plugging away at the Polish advantage. It had little effect until the fourth quarter when the Swedes managed to put a run of their own together.

It started with Polish center Szymon Szewczyk who fouled Swedish guard Levin while attempting a three-pointer.

Levin drained all three free throws to make the score 61-58. Szewczyk answered with a lay-up, but then young Swedish prospect Rudy Mbemba nailed a three pointer, 63-61.

Szewczyk split a pair from the line and Kenny Grant stepped up for Sweden with a three-pointer to tie the game, 64-64.

Both sides traded baskets, before Mbemba drained another trey to give Sweden their first lead of the game, 66-69. Suddenly momentum was on Sweden's side and a Per Ringstrom lay-up saw his side open up a 5-point gap, 66-71, with four minutes remaining.

Poland replied immediately with a 5-0 run thanks to two free throws from Wocjik and a Filip Dylewicz three-pointer.

Ringstrom made one of two from the line in reply, but Nordgaard hit a three-pointer to give the lead back to Poland, 74-72.

Levin then made a jump shot to tie the game, but Poland hit their third consecutive three, this time from Robert Skibniewski to go ahead 77-74.

Ringstrom again split a pair from the line and Wocjik answered with a lay-up, 79-75.

Poland faced a worrying moment when Wojcik had a chance to make the game safe with 34 seconds to play, but blew two free throws. However, Sweden missed two consecutive three-pointers and were forced to foul to stop the clock.

Dylewicz stepped up and drained two free throws to finally put Sweden's comeback hopes to an end.

"We managed to stop their penetration at the end of the game and we executed offensively," said Urlep.

Wojcik, who turned 36 in April, finished the game with 18 points. Dylewicz also had 18 for Poland who face Bulgaria in their next game.

Sweden travel to Kiev to play Ukraine.

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