by Dan Casey
|Martin Peterka shot 8/13 en route to 18 points for the Czech Republic|
The host country Czech Republic continued their remarkable run with a 78-72 win over Germany to secure first place in Qualifying Round Group E.
The Czech Republic will play Latvia in the quarter-final on Friday and they will be riding a wave of confidence after wins in qualification against Spain, Russia and now Germany.
The Czech team's run is all the more impressive after promotion from Division B last year, and an illness which decimated the team in the tournament build-up and sidelined star Adam Pechacek.
After the game, Czech coach Petr Treml explained that Prokop Slanina had been integral to his team's improved second-half defense: "We had an excellent start to the second half, but then Slanina collected his fourth foul. We took him out and our lead began to fall, so we had a dilemma. We experimented with our defense, but then we put Slanina back in and he changed the game."
Radovan Kouril has taken the baton in Pechacek's absence and sparked the Czech team tonight with 11 points in the first quarter. His lay-up at the end of the first period gave the Czech team a 29-25 lead.
Improved defense from both sides saw Germany take the lead in the second quarter, but a 10-2 run for the Czech Republic closed the half, capped by Kouril's three-pointer with 4 seconds remaining to make the score 47-41 to the Czech team.
The lead extended to 17 points with 4:11 remaining in the third quarter, but the Germans have shown plenty of fighting spirit in the tournament so far and used a 9-0 run at the end of the period to come back into the game.
When Maximilian Ugrai converted with 2:43 remaining in the final period, the lead had been reduced to two points and the crowd were on the edge of their seats again.
But Prokop Slanina calmly hit two free-throws and then Slanina found space to convert a Martin Peterka pass, and Jiri Soula grabbed his sixth steal to seal victory.
Kouril top-scored with 19 points and added 7 assists. Double-double machine Peterka recorded his fifth of the competition (18 points, 10 rebounds).
Soula added 16 points to his 6 steals, and Slanina ended with 14 points. David Taylor led Germany with 17 points, and Ugrai contributed 13 points and 9 rebounds in the defeat.