The Czech Republic remain on course to reach EuroBasket 2005 after beating Poland 73-64 in the additional qualifying round.
6,400 spectators turned up in the Sazka Arena in Prague to watch the game, a record crowd for a basketball match in the Czech Republic.
The arena, which will host the 2006 Euroleague Final Four, is recognised as one of the best in Europe.
“It was pleasure for us to play in such a wonderful arena and I hope that we will see much more basketball games here in the future,” said Czech Republic coach Michal Jezdik after the game.
It was a convincing win for the Czechs who led for almost the entire contest. Michal Ignerski downed a three-pointer to put Poland ahead in the opening minute, but the Czechs soon overhauled that to fly into a nine-point lead.
They ended the first quarter 19-17 to the good after Poland rallied. The visitors then briefly got their noses ahead again by scoring the first five points of the second period, only to provoke a second Czech onslaught of nine points without answer.
Despite suffering from poor shooting from behind the arc – Maurice Whitfield was 0-2 and Jiri Welsch 0-5 – the Czechs led 38-34 at the half-time interval.
Lubos Barton led the second-half charge with the opening four points, and Welsch then sunk a 27th-minute three-pointer to put the hosts 50-43 up.
Poland rallied once more, and the game was in the balance when they got it to 55-52 with eight minutes remaining, but the Czechs moved through the gears once again and Barton’s three-pointer four minutes from time had them 65-58 up.
Welsh and Whitfield then tallied to put the game beyond doubt in the final moments.
Despite the win, Jezdik was well aware that it was not a vintage performance from his side.
“We knew about two main strenghts of the Poland side: transition game and rebounding. We tried to eliminate them however we were not successful in it during the whole game. We will take advantage of our mistakes before the next game,” he said.
The Czechs will now head to a training camp in Opava, where they will meet Estonia for another qualification match on Thursday.