Beer leads Czechs to victory in Victoria

Asked about the key to their success, Czech guard Tomas Satoransky talked about beer. 

He said the team drinks together watching films after games such as their stunning overtime win over Canada in the FIBA Olympic qualifier semi-final in Victoria, BC on Saturday.

Before the Sunday final against Greece, they had “one beer”. 

The liquid preparation seems to be working for the Czechs. They shot 63 percent from the floor on Sunday, beating Greece 97-72 to qualify for the Olympics for the first time since 1980. In Tokyo later this month, where the Czechs will face Iran, France and USA, Satoransky jokes that they will need “five beers” before playing Team USA.

But, as Satoransky and Czech coach Ronen Ginzburg say, the Czechs won’t be in Tokyo for sightseeing and taking selfies with famous American players. The Czechs believe their camaraderie give them a chance to compete with any team in the world. 

“I think it’s everything for national teams,” Satoransky told Globalite Magazine after scoring 12 on 7 shot attempts. “You see some national teams that are put together for many years. They can overcome the tough situations. We played together at Eurobasket 2013, then the world cup in 2019. We know how to have fun as well. We always celebrate to be with each other.”

He says the pre and post-game beer drinking helps the team communicate, laugh and focus. “It’s team building,” he said. 

Satoransky, who was voted the Tissot MVP of the tournament in Victoria, also praised his coach for giving him the power to take the big shots, such as his bank shot to win the overtime game versus Canada 103-101. “Having the confidence from the coach and your players, makes you feel calm in those moments. I’ve done it before and I was believing in myself. It makes you feel that you can do it. I’m proud of how we reacted in overtime.”

Satoransky and Ginzburg agreed that the chance to play in the Olympics gave them the energy to succeed in back-to-back games. “It’s an amazing feeling. We have a great bunch of guy with great character,” Ginzburg said in the post-match press conference. “I was worried if they would have the power to play the game, because they were a little bit tired.’

“I was joking,” quipped Satoransky. “For me personally, and for all those guys in the locker room, to go to the Olympics was the biggest dream since being a kid, bigger than going to the NBA. Not even in my wildest dream could I imagine going there. I was a little tired before the game, and I hoped to find some energy. But today Jan Vesely was the main motivator. He played with such energy and he changed the game for us. All our bench did a great job.”

Patrik Auda led Czech with 20 points on 8 of 9 shooting, while Vesely added 16, Jaromir Bohacik 15, and Ondrej Balvin had 14 and 7 rebounds to go with Vesely’s 9 boards. Czech outrebounded Greece 35-23. Georgios Papagiannis, with 14, Giannoulis Larentzakis, 12, Konstantinos Mitoglou, 12 and Kostas Sloukas, 11, led Greece. 

Greece coach Rick Pitino said Greece didn’t have enough time to prepare for this game after beating Turkey on Saturday night. “We ran into a (Czech) team that in back-to-back situations know how to play. We didn’t. They dominated the glass. They got wide open threes. We lost in the first quarter by getting beat in transition.”

Pitino, who said he won’t return to coach Greece, praised Czech’s ability to perform well on Sunday after winning in overtime on Saturday. “That tells you what an experienced team they are. They have 6 or 7 guards and big guys who can hurt you.”

Ginzburg also noted the winning mentality of Czech players. “They are winners. They believe in themselves. Against USA (in Tokyo), it’s almost a mission impossible. But we want to do the best,” he said. “We are not coming to the Olympics to be visitors.”

(words and images copyright Christopher Johnson Globalite Media all rights reserved)