China’s World Cup took a big hit on Monday, and Poland got a giant boost.
In the first tough test of the young tournament for both teams, China fell to a better organized and more resilient Poland 79-76 in overtime.
The win guaranteed Poland a berth in the next round, which meant under FIBA rules that it automatically advanced to an Olympic qualifying tournament with a chance to reach Tokyo next year.
Poland last played in the Olympics in 1980.
“After tonight the world is going to know who Poland players are,” Poland’s American coach, Mike Taylor, said.
Taylor said this was the core of his motivation speech before the game — respect.
“A lot of other European countries and teams are respected because of their performance and tradition,” said Taylor, who took over an up-and-down Poland six years ago and has built a solid foundation. “We are in the beginning of building our tradition here in Poland.”
Poland’s two names to remember in the Group A game were Mateusz Ponitka and American-born A.J. Slaughter. Ponitka led all scorers with 25 and Slaughter added 22.
Yi Jianlian had 24 for China.