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Israel national team center Richard Howell had 19 points, seven rebounds and seven assists in Friday’s 88-68 win over Estonia in 2019 World Cup qualification at the Drive-In Arena in Tel Aviv..(Photo by: DANNY MARON)
Israel primed for Greece after opening with Estonia win
The squad opened its 2019 FIBA World Cup campaign with a 20-point win over Estonia on Friday.
After getting its 2019 FIBA World Cup campaign off on the right foot with a 20-point win over Estonia in Tel Aviv on Friday, new Israel coach Oded Katash knows his team faces a challenge of a completely different magnitude against Greece in Crete on Monday.

Israel dominated the second half on Friday to register an 88-68 win and move to 1-0 in Group H, with the Greeks also getting off to a winning start, beating Great Britain 95-92 in overtime in Leicester.

Israel trailed by as many as seven points (14-7) in the first quarter after an edgy start.

An 8-0 run capped by a Tamir Blatt three-pointer moved the hosts in front and the score was tied at 21-21 after 10 minutes. Estonia would open another seven-point gap (30- 23) in the second period, but this time the blue-and-white would reply with an 11-0 surge, and had a three-point edge at the break (38-35).

Israel pulled ahead in the third quarter, with another Blatt triple to end the frame opening a double-digit margin (65-54) for the first time in the game. The contest was as good as over after the hosts scored 12 of the first 14 points of the final quarter (77-56), securing an encouraging start to a long campaign.

Richard Howell led Israel with 19 points, seven rebounds and seven assists, with Shawn Dawson adding 13 points and Jake Cohen contributing 10 points and seven boards after missing Maccabi Tel Aviv’s 89-67 loss at Barcelona in Euroleague action on Thursday.

Israel enjoyed an excellent all-around shooting display, hitting 24-of-41 shots from two-point range (58.5%), 9-of-14 from three (64.3%) and 13-of-15 from the freethrow line (86.7%).

Rain Veideman and Kristjan Kitsing scored 14 points each for Estonia, which shot 9-of- 38 from three (23.7%).

“We didn’t have a chance to play any preparation games and that resulted in our play in the first half,” said Katash. “I was pleasantly surprised by the way the players adjusted to the system. It will be a completely different story against Greece and we will have to adjust.”

Greece’s under-strength roster is expected to receive a significant boost for Monday’s game, with Nick Calathes, Thanasis Antetokounmpo and Ian Vougioukas set to join the team after missing Friday’s win against Great Britain to help Panathinaikos to a Euroleague win over Real Madrid on Thursday.

The first round of qualifying will run until July 2018, with the top three in the group to advance to the second round.
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