Local Hoops: Sherf's squad looks to regroup from loss in key EuroBasket qualifier

An away win is vital if the team is to claim first spot in Group D and advance to the European Championships for a ninth consecutive time.

September 10, 2008 06:46
2 minute read.

Israel will be looking to claim its first road victory in EuroBasket 2009 qualification on Wednesday night when it visits the Czech Republic. An away win is vital if the team is to claim first spot in Group D and advance to the European Championships for a ninth consecutive time without needing the additional qualifying tournament. On Saturday, Tzvika Sherf's men chased Bosnia from behind throughout most of their first road qualifier and eventually succumbed 77-71. The national team, which opened its campaign with a 102-92 overtime victory over Great Britain at the Nokia Arena last week, has been far from impressive this summer. Even so, it could redeem itself from recent lackluster performances (with the notable exception of the victory over the Brits) and get its campaign back on track with a win against a weak Czech side. The Czechs surprised Bosnia 70-56 in their first home qualifier, but were brought back down to Earth on Saturday in London, losing 87-68 to Great Britain. "We can't underestimate the Czechs," the ever-cautious Sherf said ahead of the game. "Every team wants to stop its opponents' star player so they will likely be targeting Meir Tapiro and we will be focusing on Jiri Welsch." The Czech guard was drafted by the Philadelphia 76ers with the 16th pick in the 2002 NBA Draft and has since spent time at the Golden State Warriors, Dallas Mavericks, Boston Celtics, Cleveland Cavilers and Milwaukee Bucks. Welsch, who currently plays for Spanish club Unicaja Malaga, has averaged 14 points, 5.0 rebounds and 4.5 assists in the first two qualifiers, spending only six total minutes on the sideline in his team's games so far. The 28-year-old is by far his squad's biggest star, but despite the fact that much will depend on his performance on Wednesday, Israel captain Meir Tapiro is adamant that the Czechs should not simply be regarded by the Israelis as a one-man team. "The Czechs play very well at home. We need to control the rhythm," Tapiro said. "They don't just depend on one player and neither do we. "As far as I'm concerned we're a team and we need to win as a team," added Tapiro, who scored 27 points in the victory against Great Britain, but only six in the loss in Bosnia. "This is a key game in the campaign," said Israeli guard Raviv Limonad. "If we win on Wednesday and remain undefeated at home we will advance to the European Championships." Also Wednesday, Israel's women's team visits Ukraine knowing a victory will see it advance to the European Championships. The team, which lost 66-63 to Ukraine when the sides first met late last month, will face Great Britain at home on Saturday in its final qualifier As long as it wins one of its two remaining games, the team will advance to EuroBasket 2009.

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