|Mikolaj Witlinski registered an impressive 17-point, 17-rebound double-double for Poland|
Poland held off 2013 champions Italy to register a 79-75 victory on Sunday in Heraklion and finish in ninth place in their maiden participation in Division A of the U20 European Championship.
Turning Point: Poland began to pull away from Italy midway through the second quarter and secured a 44-35 lead at the half-time break. They maintained a safe cushion until the fourth, when Italy made their last push and used a 5-0 mini-run to reduce to 77-75 with 14 seconds remaining. Daniel Szymkiewicz was sent to the line with five seconds left and hit his first free throw to make it 78-75, missed the second but Mikolaj Witlinski emerged with the offensive board and was fouled, with less than two seconds left on the clock. Witlinski also split his free throws but he had already deprived Italy of the opportunity to attempt the last shot of the game.
Game Hero: Even without considering his crucial offensive rebound in the clutch, Witlinski had already produced a big performance to sign off the tournament. The Polish center collected a double-double of 17 points and 17 rebounds, also adding three assists.
Stats Don't Lie: Poland came up with 10 steals against the careless Italians and put their 16 offensive boards to good use, scoring 23 second-chance points (Italy 11). Italy's 21 turnovers erased the advantage they gained by shooting the ball better than Poland (Italy 47.5% from the floor, Poland 42.4%).
The Bottom Line: Poland did not only stave off relegation back to Division B in their first ever year in the top flight, but also finished the tournament on a high note as they won their last two games and claimed an excellent ninth spot in the final standings. Italy finished on a 4-5 record and 10th place in the tournament, a year after conquering gold in Estonia.