(photo credit: AP)
Israel thoroughly outplayed Denmark on Saturday night to record its fourth straight victory of the EuroBasket 2007 last-chance tournament. The national team defeated the Danes 105- 76 at the Nokia Arena in its final home game of the tournament and will travel in high spirits to its two road games against Ukraine and Belgium on the coming Wednesday and Saturday.
Israel coach Tzvika Sherf made the most of the inferior opponent and gave most of his squad members plenty of court time ahead of the team's more difficult upcoming games. Of the team's 12 squad members 11 played 14 minutes or more, with five of them scoring in double figures. Yotam Halperin led the way once more, scoring 22 points and missing just one shot during his 22 minutes on court. Lior Eliyahu and Guy Pnini added 15 points each, with Meir Taprio scoring 12 points and passing eight assist and Yaniv Green contributing 10 points and eight rebounds.
The win means Israel continues to lead Group C and takes the team a step closer to qualifying for a three-team competition in Madrid later in August. The winner of the three-team contest will advance to EuroBasket 2007 to be held in Spain at the beginning of September.
Peter Johansen's (17 points) three at the very beginning of the game gave the visitors their one and only lead of the game. Meir Tapiro, who was celebrating his 100 th appearance for the national team, answered back immediately with three points of his own and started a 9-0 run which put the hosts in control of the game.
Halperin capped the run with two points two-and-a-half minutes into the game (11-3), continuing his excellent scoring form of recent weeks. Tapiro's second three of the quarter put the hosts ahead by double digits for the first time in the game (22-12) and a beautiful move by Eliyahu to end the period gave the hosts a 32-20 advantage 10 minutes into the game.
Eliyahu continued to terrorize the Danish defense in the second quarter and Israel was ahead by 20 points (40-20) thanks to another trademark athletic move by the Maccabi Tel Aviv forward. The hosts continued to extend the margin as the period progressed and Eliyahu's steal and dunk two minutes to the interval thrilled the fans and gave the blue-and-white a 56-32 lead.
Dror Hajaj's basket from beyond the arc with a minute remaining in the half increased the side's lead even further and the hosts led by 24 points at the break (59-35).
Israel continued to pile the misery on Denmark in the second half and two more baskets by Taprio and Halperin extended the hosts margin to 31 points (67-36).
The hosts maintained their advantage throughout the period and Haplerin's 13th point of the quarter put the score at 80-49.
Israel entered the final period up 88-51 after Moran Rot's buzzer beating three point move and Guy Pnini's triple three minutes into the final quarter gave the hosts a mammoth 42 point margin (97-55). Amit Tamir had the honor of scoring Israel's 100 th point of the night, hitting a three pointer midway through the fourth quarter. The visitors slightly cut the gap in garbage time, but Israel completed nonetheless an impressive a 29 point victory.