Basketball: Israel beats Belgium in first of 3-game series

Strong 84-73 win against Belgium in Tel Aviv continues national team's preparations for September's EuroBasket qualification tournament.

israel basketball 298.88 (photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
israel basketball 298.88
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
The Israeli national team continued its preparations for September's EuroBasket qualification tournament with a strong 84-73 win against Belgium in Tel Aviv. The game, held in the Hadar Yosef arena, was the first of three matchups with the Belgians with the second on Tuesday in Ramla and the third on Thursday evening in Ashkelon. Yaniv Green led Israel's scorers with 14 points and grabbed six rebounds. Captain Meir Tapiro was close behind with 13 points and four assists. Lior Eliyahu scored 12 points. For the Belgians Beye Tabu-Eboma scored 15 points and Yannick Dresen grabbed 14. Head coach Tzvika Sherf who decided to start with Yotam Halperin, Yaniv Green, Meir Tapiro, Matan Naor and Ido Kozikaro, was satisfied with his team after the win. "We didn't start the match off too well in the first quarter, but in the next three we achieved our goals. After not playing for two weeks we managed to win while working on improving fitness and trying out various options in offense and defense to see how things work out. New Maccabi Tel Aviv signing Yaniv Green opened the match well, scoring Israel's first eight points and was no match for the Belgian side in the paint for long periods. "It was our first home game and there was definitely some excitement in the beginning, there always is. We didn't start well but we recovered rather quickly and by the second quarter we were already much better," he said. Israel, which qualified for last year's European Championships via the last chance tournament, will kick off the EuroBasket campaign with a match at the Nokia Arena against Great Britain on September 3 before travelling to Bosnia and Herzegovina for the first of three away games. After visiting the Czech Republic and Britain it will return home to welcome Bosnia and then the Czechs in its sixth game in two weeks. Game began with Sherf's men having trouble on offense against the Belgian zone defense. On the other side the Belgians seemed to crack the Israeli zone defense time after time hitting most of their shots behind the 3 point line. Despite the Belgians lacking in size, and missing their two main players, Axel Hervelle and Tomas Van Den Spiegel, they were still first to the offensive boards and the first quarter ended with a Belgian 26-20 lead. Tapiro took matters into his own hands in the second quarter and alongside new Naharia signing Raviv Limonad and Lior Elyahu who both had excellent starts off the bench managed to level the game again. Omri Casspi came in as well and finished an excellent run with a two handed dunk to tie up the game at 40 apiece. Halftime score rested on 42-41 still in Belgium's way. Second half Sherf started with the same starting five only instead of kozikaro who hadn't managed to find himself in the game Chris Watson received his chance. The Holon forward didn't disappoint scoring a basket and receiving a foul on the first play of the half. The Israeli defense came off aggressive creating two turnovers. Tapiro kept his form on the court finding Elyahu time after time, by the end of the 3rd quarter the score was already 66-56 Israel way. The game kept its pace in the fourth quarter and after what seemed as a mini comeback for the Belgians the Israel side finished the game off with some great runs and with Kozikaro hitting two shots from the line taking the score to 82-68 2.5 minutes to the end. "The goal is to get ourselves in the best shape by September. We still have to work on certain areas which demand improvement." concluded the coach at the end of the match