‘I love this team' was the simple response of Austria Coach Werner Sallomon in the wake of watching his team take gold and being crowned champions of U20 European Championship Men 2010 Division B on home soil after a hard fought 71-66 win against Sweden.
Finishing top of the podium after a thrilling and highly entertaining final game was the perfect conclusion to a terrific tournament.
|U20 European Championship Men 2010 Division B medals ceremony|
It really left host city Oberwart rocking as Austria pulled out all of the stops to finish with a flourish - something that left Jesse Seilern pinching himself in disbelief.
"We were forming a bubble out of our energy and spirit," claimed the shooting guard.
"Everybody was giving all he could for this championship. Three weeks ago nobody would have thought that this is possible. I am very happy."
Just like everyone else on he roster, team-mate Romed Vieider was left reflecting on the best moment of his fledgling career.
"We have played our best basketball in the last 10 days," he said. "I am very proud of this whole team. Everybody was giving his best in this time.
"The spirit and the heart carried this team to this big success, also in close games. This is the biggest victory in my basketball life."
It had looked like Austria were going to romp to victory in the last game of he tournament after Rasid Mahalbasic poured in 17 first half points to help the home team establish a 23 point advantage by early in the second half. While that got the part going a little earlier than expected, Sweden showed plenty of resolve to come storming back as the party was briefly put back on ice until finally Austria regained their composure to stay cool down the stretch.
Much of the credit had to go to stand out Mahalbasic who signed off with a massive 28 points and 15 rebounds but Assistant Coach Armin Göttlicher was quick to underline the efforts of the entire team.
" It was an amazing tournament for our team. They were focused and getting stronger from game to game. This unique team is unbeatable."
Austria Federation Sports director Robert Langer added: "It was a fantastic atmosphere in Oberwart which carried the team to the victory. Firstly it was close, then clear and again close at the end. But wonderful for us. Words can't say what I am feeling."
Poland grabbed the final podium place and a bronze medal after they chalked up an 86-76 win over Bulgaria with a strong second half performance and 25 points from Aleksandar Czyz. Both teams played with their usual empahsis on defence and it was the pressing defence of the Poles that was crucial in the final quarter Bulgaria turning the ball over too many times and missing out on third place as a result - despite 19 points and seven rebounds by Aleksandar Georgiev.
In the fight for other positions, Israel managed to claim fifth place ahead of Great Britain with a 103-92 victory - despite 31 points from British forward Ovie Soko. A 36-19 second quarter was decisive for Israel as was a near double-double of 19 points and 9 boards from Tal Karpelesz.
Belgium were left disappointed as they were pushed down into eighth spot after losing 64-61 to Portugal in a tight game. Thomas De Thaey missed the chance to force overtime with a buzzer beating three while for Portugal, Tiago Raimundo got the dirty work done with a critical 12 rebounds.
In game where defence was even more on top, Finland came out with a 65-54 win against Norway, Sasus Salin and Antto Nikkarinen both scoring 14 points each. Hungary took eleventh spot with an 88-85 win against Slovak Republic thanks to a super double-double of 14 points and 14 rebounds from Ferdinand Morgen.
Finally in the Classification Round, Georgia finished top of the pile with a perfect 4 of 4 victories although they had to work hard after they finished off with a narrow 83-80 success against Denmark.