Euro Hoops: Halperin: Israel must improve despite wins over Poland and GB

Sherf's troops end London tourney on a high with 79-69 victory.

mac ta halperin 224.88 (photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
mac ta halperin 224.88
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Israel star Yotam Halperin believes the team still has plenty to improve on ahead of next month's EuroBasket tournament, despite leading the blue-and-white to a second straight victory in the 'Game On At The O2' warm-up event in London on Sunday. The Olympiakos guard scored 29 points for the national team in its 79-69 victory over host Great Britain at the O2 Arena, but he remains focused on the European Championships, which begin in Poland on September 7. "It was important for us to end the tournament in London with a victory," said Halperin. "We played against better teams than we did in the tournament in the Netherlands [earlier this month]. "We had some excellent minutes, but we still have plenty more to improve on to be ready for our main target, which is the European Championships." Israel lost its first two games of the summer before beating the Netherlands last Sunday, and despite losing to Turkey in its tournament opener in London, finished the event in second position behind the Turks thanks to its victories over Poland on Saturday and Great Britain. "We need to look forward because our goal is the EuroBasket tournament," said coach Tzvika Sherf. "Our defense was very good in the second half and it was our players' determination which won the game." Complementing Halperin, who tied his career-best in an Israel uniform, were Lior Eliyahu, who scored 16 points, and Gal Mekel, who added 14. Tal Burstein, who scored 28 points in the victory over Poland, was limited to three points, with Yaniv Green missing the game completely through injury. The lead switched hands several times at the start of the game, but Israel ended the first period better than the Brits and led 27-21 after 10 minutes. The national team began the second quarter poorly and allowed the hosts within two points (34-32). However, Eliyahu made sure the side remained in front with four straight points and Israel took a 42-39 advantage into the break. Mekel, who cemented his place as Israel starting point-guard in the tournament, scored two three-pointers to start the second half and the team increased the margin in the third period, leading 65-55 with 10 minutes to play. The gap continued to mushroom in the fourth quarter and despite a late surge by the Brits, Israel easily held on to its lead and ended the tournament on a high.