Blue-and-white bounces back to beat Georgia

Superb second half sees Israel gather much needed confidence ahead of next week’s European Championships.

casspi dunking 370 use (photo credit: (IBA/courtesy))
casspi dunking 370 use
(photo credit: (IBA/courtesy))
Israel claimed a morale-boosting victory in its final warm-up game ahead of next week’s EuroBasket tournament, coming back from 18-points down to defeat Georgia 77-75 in Haifa on Wednesday night.
However, while the win was welcome news for national team coach Arik Shivek, he will surely be entering the European Championships in a far from relaxed mood after seeing yet another extremely erratic display by his side.
A sensational second half, which included a 20-0 run, may have seen the blue-andwhite clinch the win, but the team yet again opened a game in dismal fashion, trailing 47- 32 at halftime, and once more almost gifted its opponent the victory with a late collapse.
Israel opened a 71-63 lead with 4:42 to play following its 20-0 surge, but scored just three points in the final 3:20 minutes of the game. The Georgians had a chance to snatch the win in the final possession, only for nationalized Georgian and Maccabi Tel Aviv guard Ricky Hickman to turn over the ball to Yogev Ohayon.
Ohayon led Israel with a national team career-high of 20 points, also registering six assists, while Yotam Halperin scored 15 and Omri Casspi contributed 14 points.
Israel played without the injured Alex Tyus once more, but he is set to be included in the roster for the championships.
“Apart from a few top teams, every side in Europe can beat any other team, and that includes us and Georgia,” said Shivek. “Basketball is a game of momentum and they had momentum on their side in the second quarter and we had it on ours in the second half. The players really wanted to win and they put themselves under positive pressure. They managed to relax in the second half and the game flowed much better. When we play as a unit we are very difficult to stop.”
The national team opens its EuroBasket campaign in Slovenia against Great Britain next Wednesday (September 4), before facing Ukraine (September 5), France (September 6), Belgium (September 8) and Germany (September 9) in Group A.
Apart from Tony Parker’s France, the runner-up from 2011, Israel will believe it can beat every other team in the group and finish among the top three to progress to the second round.
However, if the build up to the championships has proven anything it is that the blueand- white is also capable of losing to any side, something everyone on the team is well aware of.
“It really hurt us to be down almost 20 points at the break,” said Ohayon. “We were very anemic and hardly moved on defense. We exploded in the second half and played the way we want to. I’m worried that we have only managed to play like this for one half, but if we can do so for an entire game we can beat any team.”