Israel’s basketball roster dispersed to the four corners of the globe on Wednesday after completing the mission it set out to achieve at the beginning of the summer and advancing to the European Championships for an 11th straight time.
The blue-and-white’s erratic campaign started with two straight defeats, the second of which (to Estonia at home) seriously complicated Israel’s hopes of progressing to EuroBasket 2013.
However, it got back on track by triumphing in six of its next seven games, including a very impressive 13-point win over Serbia and a 31-point thrashing of Estonia on the road.
Israel ended its 10-game campaign with an 83-67 defeat in Belgrade on Tuesday, but despite dropping to a 6-4 record – the same as Serbia and Estonia – it progressed to the championships from second place by virtue of its superior basket differential.
Coach Arik Shivek can now turn his attention to the EuroBasket tournament in Slovenia next summer where the national team will be hoping to progress past the first group stage for the first time since 2007.
Israel ended EuroBasket 2009 with an 0-3 record and lost its first three games of the championships last year to drop out of contention before winning its final two insignificant encounters.
However, Israel was without the injured Omri Casspi last year, an extremely significant absence when considering the forward’s play over the last month.
Casspi led the side with 19.5 points and 5.1 rebounds per game, and was ranked among the top seven players from the 31 teams in points per game, field goal percentage (60%) and threepoint field goal percentage (52.1%).
Lior Eliyahu (16 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 3.3 apg), Alex Tyus (12.6 ppg, 6.8 rpg) and Yogev Ohayon (9.4 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 5.3 apg) were the team’s three other standout players and should Yotam Halperin and Guy Pnini also raise their level, Israel will be confident of pulling a surprise next summer.
“We showed our character after losing to Estonia,” Halperin said. “This is one of the most talented rosters we have had in recent years and our goal is to succeed at the championships.”