Another junior basketball title for Israel

U18 squad claims Division B European crown • Beersheba, Mac TA, Bnei Yehuda in Europa League action

By JOSHUA HALICKMAN
August 5, 2019 23:56
4 minute read.
ISRAEL'S UNDER-18 national basketball team celebrates on the court after defeating Poland 81-79 in t

ISRAEL'S UNDER-18 national basketball team celebrates on the court after defeating Poland 81-79 in the Division B final of the European Championships on Sunday night in Romania. The title helps Israel move up to Division A for next year. (photo credit: ISRAEL BASKETBALL ASSOCIATION)

The Israel Under-18 Basketball Team won the FIBA Division B European Championships over the weekend with a tight 81-79 final victory over Poland in Oradea, Romania.

The blue-and-white swept its way through the tournament, going a perfect 8-0 to earn promotion back to Division A for next year. Capturing the Under-18 competition comes on the heels of the Under-20 team’s back-to-back European Championships, which was secured in July’s tournament in Tel Aviv.

Noam Dovrat from Maccabi Rishon Lezion was named the U18 Most Valuable Player, averaging 16.1 points, 4.5 assists and 5.3 rebounds, while Maccabi Tel Aviv’s Dori Sahar also starred for Israel averaging 13 points and 7.5 rebounds per game. The team was welcomed back to Israel with an impromptu celebration at Ben Gurion airport on Monday afternoon.

Head coach Oren Aharoni couldn’t contain his excitement.

“I’m very happy and proud that we were able to have such a wonderful tournament. Every day was another battle for the guys as they played quality basketball and had a winning attitude throughout the competition. I’m very happy for Israel basketball.”

Meanwhile, in soccer, Hapoel Beersheba claimed a 1-1 second-leg draw at Kairat Almaty to win 3-1 aggregate and advance to the third round of Europa League qualifying, where it will play Norrkoping from Sweden.

The Southern Reds came into the contest with a two-goal advantage after defeating the Kazakhstan side 2-0 in Israel the previous week. Rade Dugalic scored in 40the minute for Kairat to give the hosts hope, but then lost Yeldos Akhmetov to second yellow card in the 55th minute reducing Kairat to 10 men.

Dugalic then scored an own-goal in the 63rd minute when Jimmy Marin’s intended cross to Nigel Haselbaink went off of the central defender and into the net to draw Barak Bachar’s squad even to give them an insurmountable lead as it closed out the tie.

Beersheba will now prepare to face Norrkoping in a two-legged series, with the first contest set to be played in Sweden on Thursday night. Founded in 1897, the Israeli club has won 13 league championships while featuring in continental play since 1956, but has never advanced to the group stages of the Europa League with this year’s team going the deepest ever in the qualifying tournament.

Norrkoping has currently played 18 league games in its current domestic campaign and is in seventh place with seven wins, seven draws and four losses. Jordan Larsson, the league’s leading goal scorer with 11 markers has featured for the squad, but was just sold last week to Spartak Moscow.

Should Beersheba advance to the Playoff Round, it will play the winner of the Dinamo Tbilisi-Feyenoord matchup.

Also, Maccabi Tel Aviv now enters the third round of Europa League qualifying where after being eliminated from Champions League qualification last week by drawing 2-2 with Cluj in the return leg after falling in Romania 1-0 in the first leg. The yellow-and-blue will meet Suduva from Lithuania, with the first leg to be played in Israel at the Netanya Stadium on Thursday night, while the second match will be held away the following week.

Suduva is one of the oldest clubs in the competition, with roots dating back to 1921. The back-to-back Lithuanian champ is currently in first place in its domestic league, with 14 wins and three defeats, while in European play the furthest the side has gone was the playoff qualifying round of the Europa League and Champions League, respectively, in 2017 and 2018, where it was eliminated by Ludogorets and Scottish powerhouse Celtic. Suduva is coming off a 10-0 aggregate win over Tre Penne of San Marino.

A familiar face with the Lithuanian squad is striker Tosaint Ricketts, who played with Hapoel Haifa in the 2014/15 season. The Canadian international has eight goals in 15 games for Suduva so far this campaign. If Maccabi moves into the playoffs, it will face the loser of the Dinamo Zagreb-Ferencvaros tie.

Bnei Yehuda also enters the third round of Europa League qualifying thanks to winning the Israel State Cup last season. However, Azerbaijan’s Neftci will be stiff competition for Yossi Abuksis’s new-look Tel Aviv side.

The first leg will be played away on Thursday night with the return leg being held in Israel. In 2012 Neftci fell to Ironi Kiryat Shmona in the third round of Champions League qualifying in its only other continental appearance against and Israeli squad. Malmo or Zrinjski will be on tap if Bnei Yehuda gets by Neftci.

Elsewhere, Maccabi Haifa defeated Strasbourg 2-1 but failed to advance to the third round of Europa League qualifying as the French side took the tie 4-3 on aggregate.

In Toto Cup action, Beitar Jerusalem won a hard flight battle 1-0 at Hapoel Tel Aviv on a goal by Maxim Grechkin, Maccabi Netanya slipped by Hapoel Kfar Saba 1-0 on a Gaby Kanichowsky strike and Ashdod and Ness Ziona drew 1-1.


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