|"The Machine" Marcin Gortat was rock solid for Poland with 23 points and 9 rebounds|
Poland took a huge stride towards potential qualification for EuroBasket 2011 after they overcame a late scare to see off arch rivals Bulgaria 75-71 in front of 7,500 fans who had their nerves well and truly shredded in Katowice.
The home supporters watched on in agony as their team allowed a double digit final quarter lead almost melt away as Bulgaria set up a thrilling finale after closing to within just one point with a little over a minute remaining.
However Thomas Kelati emerged as the hero when he coolly drained a three-pointer in the dying seconds to finally see off the late salvage bid by the visitors.
The first quarter was a hard fought affair with neither team able to make any kind of a break.
Poland shaded things 18-16 and it wasn't until the second period that they also made the first real convincing run in the game.
They opened up with a 14-6 scoring streak and that meant when Lukasz Koszarek scored with a lay-up, Poland had built up a double digit lead at 32-22.
An 8-3 burst by Bulgaria briefly narrowed the gap but a triple by Kelati wrapped up the scoring for the half with the home team leaving the court 38-30 in front.
Poland strode back onto court for the second half looking confident and were in control and keeping Bulgaria at bay until midway through the third when the visitors began to rally.
A triple by Kaloyan Ivanov made it a one-shot game at 46-43.
It was a warning of what was to follow for the hosts but it was not one they heeded. Having re-established control heading into the last ten minutes, they again allowed Bulgaria back into the game.
While the home fans hid behind their hands for long periods as Bulgaria threatened to deliver what might have been a killer blow, all turned out well for the home team as that final Kelati three-pointer dropped to give Poland real hope they can make it.
Marcin Gortat was again a rock for Poland and he finished with 23 points and 9 rebounds while Filip Videnov was the top man yet again for his country with 21 points.
Bulgaria Head Coach Rosen Barchovski:
"Congratulations to Polish team and coach Griszczuk. It was a tough game for my team but we played well enough to come close to Poland in the closing minutes. But it is very hard to win in Poland, with a great crowd and an excellent gym. What we lacked was respect from the referees in the last minutes."
Poland Head Coach Igor Griszczuk:
"It was very hard for us to play just after heart-breaking loss in Portugal by 1 point. But the team was motivated because we also had had bad luck in Bulgaria before. We could have win this game here by 15, but 16 turnovers is too much at home and we must be more focused to win away."
Poland Guard Thomas Kelati:
"It would be very easy to give up after the game which we had in Portugal.
But today in Katowice we showed heart and we also fed off the fans here. I have to tell that we had great crowds at those four games in Poland [28.000 fans total in Bydgoszcz, Lodz and Katowice]. Today Lukasz Majewski played an unbelievable game and took Videnov out of the game. Now we count for Bulgaria to win against Belgium and we will do our job in Belgium in the last round."