Israel guard Tamir Blatt (center) was shut down by the Greek defense in last night’s 65-56 loss to the hosts in the final of the under-20 European Championship..
(photo credit: FIBA EUROPE WEBSITE)
Israel’s dream run at the under-20 European Championship in Crete, Greece, ended in disappointment on Sunday night following a 65-56 loss to the host in the final.
The blue-and-white was hoping to claim the title for the first time in its history in what was its third final after losing to Slovenia both in 2000 and 2004.
This year’s side greatly exceeded all expectations by making the final, but it couldn’t complete the fairy-tale by also lifting the cup, falling to Greece after winning its first six games of the event in impressive fashion.
Israel stormed out to a 12-point lead (14-2) at the start of the final, but the Greeks erased the deficit to take a three-point advantage into the second half and seized control in the third period.
Yuval Zoosman had 23 points and seven rebounds for Israel, while the blue-and-white’s best player in the tournament, Tamir Blatt, added 10 points and seven assists. But Blatt also committed six turnovers and was held to 3-of-10 from the field.
Antonios Koniaris had 15 points for Greece, which limited Israel to 20-of- 59 from the field (33.9%).
Israel couldn’t have hoped for a better start to the final. The blue-andwhite dictated play on both ends of the floor and Ariel Navon’s three-pointer opened a 14-2 lead with 2:25 minutes to play in the period.
Israel only scored two more points until the end of the quarter, but it was more than happy to settle for a seven-point advantage (16-9) after 10 minutes.
The problem was that Greece carried the momentum into the second frame, with Koniaris’s triple completing a 16-2 run to give the hosts their first lead of the night (18-16).
Greece had a three-point edge (26- 23) at the end of the low-scoring first half and Israel looked to be in serious trouble when a three by Vasileios Charalampopoulos made it a 12-point game (37-25) with 6:22 minutes to play in the first half.
Israel was shooting just 24.4 percent (8-of-33) from the field at that stage, but would score in its next four possessions to close back to within six points (39-33).
Oded Katash’s men were down by only four points (45-41) before Nikolaos Diplaros’s triple at the buzzer opened a seven-point gap and put the Greeks in the driving seat ahead of the final 10 minutes.
With just one basket in the first five minutes of the final quarter, Israel never had a chance of coming back, and the game was effectively over when Koniaris hit another three that opened a 16-point margin (59-43).
Despite the painful loss, considering that most of the roster has little BSL experience, and the fact that Israel’s initial target was to ensure it isn’t relegated to Division B – in which it played between 2010 and 2012 – the past nine days will be remembered as a resounding success that has given Israeli basketball many reasons for optimism.