Bronze Medal Game
|Magdalena Zietara led the way for Poland with 16 points and 4 assists in a thrilling bronze medal game|
Poland snatched bronze from hosts Serbia with a 67-65 win in a thrilling third-place game at the U20 European Championship Women.
Poland had blown a 10-point half-time lead to trail for most of the second half, but edged back in front with 41 seconds left and survived a last-ditch shot from Serbia's sharp-shooting Marina Markovic to take a medal.
The final buzzer was greeted with ecstatic celebrations from Poland players and coaches alike.
"I'm so happy," said coach Ivona Jablonska. "When I was here four years ago I finished in fourth place with the Under 18s and I said then I wanted to finish higher, and today we have.
"It was a very good game, Serbia are a very good team, but we played very well today and were able to win."
Jablonska added that she hoped the victory sent a message about the potential of Polish basketball.
"In Poland, I think a lot of people don't believe that we can go higher but we showed everyone we have a big heart and we are a good team," she said.
Poland used a 10-2 run to go 41-31 ahead at half-time, but suffered a blow in the process with Malgorzata Misiuk exiting the game with a foot injury that would slow her in the second half.
It showed as Serbia came roaring back, scoring the first eight points of the second half and taking the lead, 45-44, on a jump-shot from Tijana Ajdukovic.
Poland found their rhythm again, ensuring an end-to-end contest as the teams constantly traded the lead.
|Sara Krnjic's 18 points and 16 rebound were wasted as Serbia could not complete a great comeback against Poland|
They went into the final stanza locked together on 54 points after Joanna Markiewicz sank a three on the buzzer for Poland.
The teams were tied at 60 each with two and a half minutes to go, but a Nikolina Nikilic three gave Serbia the edge.
Agnieszka Sniezek responded with a lay-up, and after Snezana Colic missed with a three, Poland snatched the lead back, 64-63, on Misiuk's jump-shot with 41 seconds left.
Ajdukovic's lay-up put Serbia back on top, but Paulina Kuras immediately answered to give Poland the edge, 66-65, with 14 ticks left.
A Markovic three-pointer was off target and a vital rebound from Sniezek gave Poland possession with time almost up.
Serbia fouled and Sniezek could only split her throws, leaving the door open for the hosts.
But Markovic's jump-shot on the buzzer bounced off the rim to send Poland's players pouring onto the court with joy.
Magdalena Zietara led Poland with 16 points, while Sniezek had 10. Misiuk finished with nine points and 10 rebounds.
Krnjic led Serbia with 18 points and 16 rebounds, while Markovic had 11 points and Nikolic 13.
Ajdukovic added 10 points and 11 rebounds for Serbia, who were left to reflect on a missed opportunity.
"We didn't play as a team, when one player played well, nobody else was able to step up and help them," said Krnjic. "And when players were bad, everyone was bad."
Coach Milkan Mrdja accepted the blame for the defeat.
"We didn't come into the tournament well enough prepared," he said. "When we are successful, it is thanks to the players. When we do badly, it is my fault."