With just one week to go before the Israel national team begins its EuroBasket qualifying campaign, coach Erez Edelstein was given plenty of reasons for optimism in Saturday’s 91-84 victory over hosts Germany in a warm-up tournament in Bamberg.
After losing 82-75 to Russia in its first game in Bamberg on Friday, the national team displayed an improved performance against Germany on the way to a confidence- boosting victory.
Israel will face Latvia in its final game of the tournament on Sunday and will begin its qualifying campaign against Montenegro in Nicosia, Cyprus next Sunday in a contest that was moved from Israel due to the security situation.
Despite scoring 30 points in the first quarter on Saturday, Israel led by just three points after 10 minutes (30-27) and a tight first half ended in a one-point blue-andwhite advantage (48-47).
There was still only a single point separating the teams with 10 minutes to play, with the Germans taking a 69-68 lead into the final quarter. However, a 9-0 Israel run saw it open an 84-75 margin from which Germany couldn’t come back, ensuring Edelstein was brimming with confidence at the final buzzer.
“We set ourselves a high standard in this game and we have to make sure we maintain it,” said Edelstein. “We are still searching for our DNA as a team, but we know we have a very high potential.”
Lior Eliyahu and Omri Casspi led Israel with 17 points each, while Gal Mekel finished with 12 points and Yaniv Green and Yotam Halperin scored 10 points each.
“This was an important win against a good team,” said Casspi. “This is important for our confidence and we are starting to feel comfortable in coach Edelstein’s system.”
Casspi had a team-high 20 points in the defeat to Russia on Friday in which Eliyahu played his first game in more than two months after recovering from a broken thumb.
“Everyone is doing their part and that is something which is very important to the team,” said Yotam Halperin, who is also fit again after recovering from injury. “It is important we recorded this win and now we can look ahead.”
The blue-and-white is playing in Germany without the naturalized D’or Fischer, with the center remaining in Israel after his wife gave birth over the weekend. Despite receiving offers from both Maccabi Tel Aviv and Hapoel Jerusalem for next season, Fischer signed on Saturday with Russian club Unics Kazan, which outbid both Israeli powerhouses.
Israel is likely to host all its home qualifiers in Cyprus after FIBA Europe told it that should the situation in the country not improve by Monday, it will also be unable to play against the Netherlands (August 24) and Bulgaria (August 27) in Tel Aviv.
Following the first qualifier against Montenegro on August 10, Israel will play three consecutive road games versus the Netherlands (Aug 13), Bulgaria (Aug 17) and Montenegro (Aug 20).
The seven group winners, as well as the six-best second-place finishers, will advance directly to next summer’s tournament in Ukraine.