Israel’s hopes of reaching an 11th straight European Championships suffered a
significant setback on Thursday night following an 81-76 defeat to Montenegro at
The national team entered the game on the back of three
straight wins after dropping its first two games of the qualifying campaign and
held the initiative when it took a seven-point lead with seven minutes
However, just like in its road encounter in Montenegro, Israel
couldn’t finish off the game and dropped to a defeat which seriously complicates
its situation in Group A of EuroBasket 2013 qualification.
Estonia in its next game on Sunday night and anything but a win will effectively
end its chances of qualifying for the European Championships.
led Israel yet again with 20 points, with Alex Tyus adding 16 points, Lior
Eliyahu scoring 14 and Yogev Ohayon contributing 10 points, eight assists and
However, Israel was outrebounded 38- 26, with the
Montenegrins taking 17 offensive boards.
Vladimir Dasic led four
Montenegro players in double-figures with 20 points.
The visitors took
three offensive boards in their first possession of the night and would dominate
Five straight Casspi points kept Israel in touch (10-9), but
Israel received scarce little on the offensive end from anyone else and found
itself five points down (17-12) at the end of the first quarter.
Israel playing its second game in 48 hours, coach Arik Shivek was forced to use
his bench more than he would have liked to, but Montenegro maintained its
advantage, with Bojan Dubljevic’s basket with 5:12 to play in the first half
giving the visitors a 26-19 margin.
However, Israel would nearly double
its point output in the final five minutes of the second quarter to move into
Five consecutive points by Tyus followed by a steal and lay-up
from Yotam Halperin tied the score (26-26) and the arena exploded after two
straight Casspi-Tyus alley-oops gave Israel a 32- 28 gap.
three-pointer with 15 seconds to play capped Israel’s 18-3 run (37-29) and the
hosts took a six-point cushion into the break (37-31).
A Halperin three
increased the gap to eight points (42-34) early in the third quarter, but
Montenegro came right back.
Casspi’s fourth foul of the night complicated
matters further for Israel, but the hosts had the edge (61-58) with 10 minutes
to play after Ohayon beat the buzzer with his three.
Shivek kept Casspi
on the bench at the start of the fourth period, but Ohayon made sure Israel
remained in control, with his jumper opening a 67-60 lead with just over seven
minutes to play.
But the momentum would soon shift in Montenegro’s
direction, with Sead Sehovic’s free throws giving Luka Pavicevic’s side a
one-point lead (68-67) midway through the fourth frame.
Casspi back onto the floor and his points from the line tied the score at 70-70
with 3:17 remaining.
The Cleveland Cavs’ forward made it seven straight
points with a triple that gave Israel a 75-72 margin with 1:56 to go, but the
Montenegro players never dropped their head, with Dubljevic three followed by
Sehovic’s lay-up putting the visitors back in the lead (77-75).
the chance to tie the score from the line at the other end, but he ended his
excellent game with two misses and Montenegro clinched the win to put Israel’s
qualification hopes in real jeopardy.