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Lone outright Asian spot in Olympics still up for grabs as China falls to Poland

Despite missing crucial free throws down the stretch, Mateusz Ponitka still put up great numbers for Poland. FIBA
By Ivan Saldajeno

MANILA--Despite falling to Serbia earlier in the day, Gilas Pilipinas Men remained in the hunt for an outright Olympic spot as FIBA World Cup host China was stunned by Poland in overtime, 76-79, at the Wukesong Sports Center in Beijing on Monday night.

China, the only Asian team that won in Matchday 1 of the FIBA worlds, had a chance to go 2-0 in Group A and clinch a spot in the second round as the team held a 72-71 lead with seven seconds left in regulation.

But Mateusz Ponitka picked a Zhou Qi pass and had a chance to win it for Poland in regulation with only four seconds remaining.

Ponitka, who made the first free throw, missed the second to only force a 72-all tie, but with no timeout remaining, Yi Jianlian settled for a halfcourt heave that missed the target, eventually sending the game to overtime.

Despite conceding a free throw from Zhao Rui to start the extra session, Poland controlled the midway point of the period and held a 76-73 lead with only 56 seconds left.

Zhao Jiwei drained a triple to tie the game at 76-all with 34 seconds remaining, but Damian Kulig beat the shotclock with the eventual game-winning layup for Poland with 10 seconds left for the 78-76 count.

Poland then forced a five-second inbound violation on China, giving the European squad the ball back.

But Ponitka once again split his charities, giving China a chance to force another overtime.

Adam Waczynski decided to foul Sun Minghui quickly to prevent China to take a triple, but Sun missed the first of his two free throws.

Sun opted to miss the second free throw in hopes of China getting the offensive rebound, and it worked wonders as Poland failed to get the defensive rebound, giving China four seconds to tie the game.

Yi had a better look this time, but his three-point attempt rimmed out as time expired.

Ponitka finished with 25 points, while naturalized player AJ Slaughter added 22 for Poland.

Yi collected 24 markers for China, which has another chance to take win number two--and a playoff spot--against Venezuela, 87-71 winner over Ivory Coast earlier Monday, on Wednesday.

Elsewhere, Tunisia romped Iran, 79-67, and Russia beat South Korea, 87-73.

Iran and South Korea, like Gilas Men, are now 0-2 as well and must beat their remaining opponents, Spain, Nigeria, and Angola respectively, and hope that China falls to Venezuela to keep their Olympic dreams alive.

Jordan, which got pipped by Dominican Republic on Sunday night, will play France on Tuesday night as the Asian team also looks to keep its own Olympic bid alive.

The best ranked Asian team in the FIBA World Cup, regardless of whether it wins the championship or not, will qualify for the Olympics outright.

Follow him on Twitter: @IvanSaldajeno