Berlin – According to captain Vojtěch Hruban, the Czech basketball players gave the best performance of the entire summer since the start of training in the round of 16 of the European Championship in Berlin. But it was not enough for success with Greece. The opponent won the sixth game of the tournament with a score of 94:88, and the Czechs could regret that they advanced from the home base group in Prague to fourth place. The Greeks avenged last year’s defeat in the Olympic qualification final in Victoria, Canada, 72:97.
“We had the best opponent. We were finally in a normal lineup, we didn’t have to stick it out. And you could see it. The tournament had a very upward trend,” Hruban told reporters after the match. “After all the things that happened around the team in the summer during the preparation, we started badly. But in the end we ended it with a good match. If this should be the last match of this party in a big tournament, we have nothing to be ashamed of,” added the representative captain.
Problems with illnesses and injuries, the most prominent of which was an ankle injury in the right leg of leader Tomáš Satoranský two weeks before the start of the tournament, reduced the team’s chances of a better result than the final 16th place. “That’s just the way it is. You can’t do anything about it. There were an awful lot of those things around. At one point we were training with seven or eight people. It was very noticeable during the preparation and when we entered the tournament,” said Hruban.
“Even the losses in the qualification for the World Cup didn’t add up, and suddenly we went into the tournament in a mentally not good mood. Thank God we were able to pull ourselves together, advance from the group and finally play a very decent match today, when we had a chance to win against the top 3 teams in Europe. It turned out that we had more to do in the tournament, but that’s how it goes sometimes,” added Hruban.
The Czechs were able to respond to the opponent’s lead at the beginning and lost the duel only in the last quarter. “Greece didn’t have a single simple basket, they had to work on everything. We had a strategy to stop Janis, who to let shoot. We were holed up in the box, we didn’t want to press or fundamentally speed up the game. It worked,” Hruban described the strategy.
“They always played to the full, we guarded the defensive rebound, which somehow worked for us. Of course, they have big players, so it was more difficult. But we were able to match them in aggressiveness until the middle of the fourth quarter, when it really got a lot tougher. Although it was at one point it was quite rugby, it was 0:6 for fouls. That’s just how it is sometimes. When one team plays more aggressively, the other collects fouls. But we can’t make excuses for that. In the end, they were better,” added Hruban.
“In the fourth quarter they started to play physical, there were suddenly a lot of hands, pulling, hard fights. They are more physical and we didn’t cope well with it. On the other side, they hit a couple of threes. It didn’t work for them the whole game, then some players from the benches, they hit two three-pointers, someone added, and the game got away from us a little bit. But I think it was completely even with about three or four minutes left. The Greeks were more nervous, but then Janis (Adetokunbo) hit a three-pointer and we knew that it’s over,” added Hruban.
But in the first half, the Greek star Janis Adetokunbo gave only four points. “Great in the first half, in the second half it could have been clear that he was going to come through. He’s one of the best players in the world, if not the best. I think he didn’t play a good game and ended up with 27 points. We made a couple of mistakes and he had a couple of to stop a counterattack with a foul. However, with the way intentional fouls are whistled at this tournament, it is difficult. Fouling a running Janis so that it was not intentional is basically impossible,” stated Hruban.
According to him, it is still too early to say what the future will be for the current core of the team, which, after a historic 6th place at the World Championships in China in 2019, also made it to the Olympic Games in Tokyo last year. “Of course, it’s true that none of the core that has been playing together for a long time is twenty-five anymore. Time doesn’t stop. It’s quite possible that it was really the very last match of this group at a big tournament,” Hruban pointed out. “I count on the fact that I will come to the next windows of qualification for the World Cup and then we will see each other,” added the summer reinforcement of the London Lions team.
Satoranský: Greece deserved to advance, but I am proud of my teammates and coaches
Tomáš Satoranský, the leader of the basketball national team, gave an excellent performance even in the round of 16 of the European Championship. In addition to three points and eight rebounds, the medically limited point guard after an ankle injury flashed against Greece with 17 assists, which is a European Championship record since 1995, when FIBA began recording this data. The Czechs tormented the big favorite a lot, but did not overcome. Despite the defeat, Satoranský praised the performance of the entire team, while also admitting that the opponent deserved to advance.
The Czech basketball players worked hard and faced a huge surprise. They were leading 67:63 after the third quarter, but they lost the final quarter by ten points and the tournament was over for them. “I am very proud of my teammates and coaches. They played their best ever match in the championship against the favorite of the tournament. I feel good about our last two matches,” said the 30-year-old Satoranský in an interview with journalists.
While 88 points against Israel on Thursday was enough to secure an important win and advance from the group stage, it was not enough on Sunday. Also because Janis Adetokunbo, the main star of the Greek selection, began to assert himself more and more.
“For three quarters, we implemented tactics well, we defended, we put up a wall for Janis. You have to play something like that against him, because he is great athletically, he is very strong in transition. Of course, it is also a bit of a risky strategy, other players suddenly have easier shots. All credit, they converted them brilliantly. Greece deserved to advance, but we didn’t leave without a fight. Such tournaments are treacherous, it seems to me that all teams are playing really well,” said Satoranský.
Attack was also a problem for the Czechs in the fourth act, the players had a hard time finding their way into good positions to finish. “I think it was our not very smart game in attack, when coach Itudis chose the tactic that Janis will defend the point guard. This is what he played in CSKA with Gurbanov. Of course it is difficult, they are tall, long. They blocked us, some shots we they didn’t hit. I guess we didn’t have as well prepared shots as in the previous match,” admitted Satoranský.
“And then we already committed fouls, which the Greeks took advantage of in their counter-attacks. And Janis? Although we wanted to give him a lot of space for a long-range shot, he hit the most important ones,” he added.
He did everything he could to free up his teammates, collecting 17 assists. “In the end, we lost, so I can’t be that satisfied. It’s also an example of the fact that I still can’t play my 100 percent basketball. After all, I would attack their defense a little more if I was physically better. But at the same time, we knew that every time, when we poke their defense, they pull down. Credit goes to my teammates for their movement without the ball, their release. We had 32 assists, in attack it was the best performance even from the team’s point of view,” highlighted Satoranský, who injured his ankle in preparation for the tournament .
Considering all the circumstances, he took the elimination in stride. “If you had asked me at the beginning of the summer, I would have seen the round of 16 finish as a disappointment. Our goals were much higher. But we have to stay on the ground and perceive how everything has developed for us. I didn’t know if I would even be here, and we had another injury. Then came the loss against Poland. I’m glad that we finally advanced to Berlin and made it difficult for the Greeks as one of the favorites,” said Satoranský.
He did not want to predict whether the Greeks would win the entire tournament. “It’s hard to say. That’s the beauty of such a tournament. As we’ve seen, it’s not predictable. Italy knocked out the Serbs, even in the next matches the outsiders had a chance. Predictions are difficult. The Germans are waiting for Greece, who are playing great so far. That’s a real challenge.” pointed out Satoransky.
Despite his unfulfilled dreams and goals, he takes many positives from the tournament. “Prague was one of the main reasons why I wanted to play so much. Covid postponed the tournament for us by a year, it was still being talked about, in the meantime we made a success in the Olympic qualification. We wanted to see a packed O2 arena. Fifteen thousand people will come to basketball! We are not used to that in the Czech Republic. We will remember something like this forever, we were very excited about it,” Satoranský recalled of the matches in the group.
“I had another motivation to get myself together at the beginning of the tournament. Of course, it wasn’t the same at the beginning, I rested for two matches, but I’m grateful that, on the contrary, in the last two matches I was able to play at least a little as well as I can. “
He wants to continue in the national team. “I think I’m still young to think about the end. Of course it hurts more and more, especially when you have a family, children and you want to spend time with them. In addition, the season will be long, I have a new season in Barcelona, where I hope to fight for titles until the end of June. We’ll see what our chances will be and how the qualification for the World Cup develops, but I certainly still have a lot of plans and ambitions with the national team. I haven’t thought about the end, I still have time,” assured Satoranský.
Source: České noviny – hlavní události by www.ceskenoviny.cz.
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