(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Israel suffered its first defeat in Euro Basket 2009 qualification on Saturday night, losing 77-71 on the road to Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The Bosnian team, who had lost its first qualifier to the Czech Republic, knew that it couldn't afford to lose the home game, especially after learning of Great Britain's 87-68 win over the Czechs.
Israel coach Tzvika Sherf remained loyal to his starting five from the dramatic overtime win over Great Britain on Wednesday playing Meir Tapiro, Yaniv Green, Yotam Halperin, Matan Naor and Ido Kozikaro at the beginning of the game against Bosnia.
Strong man-to-man defense and an offense which involved all five players saw Bosnia quickly take an 11-4 lead.
The Bosnians had already increased the lead to 22-8 in the following minutes before Sherf introduced Lior Eliyahu and Raviv Limonad to the match instead of the struggling Kozikaro and Halperin.
The subs helped cut the Bosnian lead to 22-15 by the end of the first quarter.
Guy Pnini, Amit Tamir and Omri Casspi all entered the game during the second quarter and Israel maintained its good form from the end of the first quarter bringing the score to 28-25.
The hosts would, however, soon seize control once more and ended the half in a 41-33 advantage.
Sherf decided that he's going to need to do something special if he wants to get anything out of the game and in the second half Chris Watson, who hadn't played at all against the Brits, came in for the first time.
Watson made an instant impact and everything went Israel's way in the first few minutes. Watson's energy and good plays by Tapiro and Green even gave the side a 48-47 lead.
The third quarter ended with a one point Bosnia lead (58-57), but in the final period Sherf's squad was nowhere to be seen.
The Bosnians raced to an 8-0 run and with five minutes to be played the game seemed to be over.
With less than two minutes to play Tamir scored a three and Halperin sank a quick two, which brought the deficit down to 72-68. But the hosts remained calm and finished off the game answering back with a three of their own.
Amit Tamir led Israeli scorers with 13, while Green added 11 and 7 rebounds.
For the winning side Opacak and Bajramovic both tallied 18 points.