Israel guard Gal Mekel scored 12 points in last night’s 77-74 win over Poland in EuroBasket tuneup action in Warsaw..
(photo credit: ADI AVISHAI)
Exactly one week before it hosts Italy in its EuroBasket 2017 opener at Yad Eliyahu Arena in Tel Aviv, the Israel national team claimed another win in tune-up action on Thursday night, beating Poland 77-74 in Warsaw.
The blue-and-white was coming off its first defeat of the summer, an 84-83 loss to Turkey on Sunday, having previously won seven consecutive games. Israel faced another tense finish on Thursday after a tight encounter from the start. A Gal Mekel basket with 37 seconds to play put the visitors in the driving seat, opening a four-point advantage (77-73). The Israel guard then handed the Poles a lifeline by missing two attempts from the line, but the hosts would squander two opportunities to send the game to overtime.
Omri Casspi had 15 points and eight rebounds for Israel, which played without the injured Yogev Ohayon. Mekel, Lior Eliyahu and Richard Howell added 12 points each. “I don’t think we played our game for much of the night, but we showed a lot of character,” said Mekel. “Poland played aggressively and we lost our rhythm. This is an excellent win against a good side.”
Israel, which improved to 8-1 this summer, faces Hungary in Warsaw on Friday before playing Great Britain on Saturday in what will be the national team’s final preparation game for the European Championships, which will be held in Israel for the first time.
After facing Italy in its tournament opener on August 31, Israel plays Lithuania two days later and Germany the following day.
The blue-and-white will then enjoy a one-day break before facing Georgia and Ukraine on consecutive days to wrap up its group games.
The top four teams from each of the four groups will advance to the knockout rounds which will be played in Istanbul, Turkey from September 9 and 17.
“Poland was coming off some impressive wins and we didn’t get the game off to a good start,” said Israel coach Erez Edelstein.
“In the second half we lifted our level of intensity and played really tough basketball.”
Earlier Thursday, Israel found out the identity of its third and final opponent in World Cup 2019 qualification, with Estonia booking its place in Group H.
The blue-and-white was drawn in May to face Greece, Great Britain and a qualifier.
The basketball World Cup has been overhauled by FIBA. In the past, teams qualified for the World Cup via the continental championships.
In the new format, teams will play two rounds of qualifying tournaments held over two years in a home-and-away format.
Israel will begin its qualifying campaign in November of this year, with the top three teams after six games to progress to the second round. All results from the first qualification round are carried over to the second round, with the top three to secure a berth in the World Cup.