Euro Hoops: Israel still alive for EuroBasket despite loss

National team retains first position in Group C and books its place in next week's three-team additional qualifying tournament.

israel bask ball 298.88 (photo credit: AP)
israel bask ball 298.88
(photo credit: AP)
Israel took a significant step towards EuroBasket 2007 qualification on Saturday night, despite losing 83-74 to Belgium in Charleroi. The national team retained first position in Group C and booked its place in next week's three-team additional qualifying tournament thanks to its 85-66 victory over Belgium at the Nokia Arena. The Belgians failed to overturn Israel's 19-point margin and despite ending the group with an same record to Israel (5-1), finished in second position behind the blue-and-white. The national team will play Bosnia and Macedonia over three days (August 29-31) in Menorca, Spain, next week, with the winner of the competition claiming a berth in EuroBasket, which begins in Spain on September 3. Meir Tapiro led Israel on Saturday with 16 points and eight rebounds, with Ido Kozikaro and Yaniv Green adding 12 and 10 points, respectively. Jef Van Der Jonckheyd's steal and dunk gave the hosts their first lead of the night (6-4) and Hervelle's three- point move four minutes into the game extended the Belgians margin to 13-6. Four straight points by Tapiro, who scored 11 points in the first quarter, brought Israel within one point (13-12), but Roel Moors's successful free-throws opened a six point advantage (20-14). Lior Eliyahu came off the bench and scored four consecutive points and Jeron Roberts's jumper with two minutes remaining in the period tied the score (22-22). Tapiro's three pointer in the final seconds of the quarter tied the game at 25-25 and Erez Markovich gave the visitors their first lead in almost 10 minutes with two free-throws at the start of the second period. Hervelle's basket from beyond the arc capped a 6-0 Belgian run that put the hosts in the lead, but Amit Tamir's three four minutes into the period turned the game on its head once more (34-33). Kuzikaro's jumper in Israel's next possession increased the team's lead, but a Moors triple tied the score immediately. Yotam Halperin's three with a minute remaining in the half put the side in a three point lead once again, but the half ended in a tie (41-41) after Sam Van Rossom scored two free-throws at the end of the second quarter. Yaniv Green's spin move capped Israel's 6-0 run to start the second half and Tapiro's jumper three-and-a-half minutes into the third period gave the team a seven-point cushion (51-44). Just when it seemed as though the Belgians were down and out, the hosts went on a 12-0 run and regained the lead. Dror Hajaj stopped the rot with a jumper and followed it up with a three that tied the score (56-56). Van Rossum's basket at the end of the third quarter gave the hosts a four-point lead (60-56) and a 9-2 Belgian run to start the fourth quarter put the team in a commanding lead. Four straight points by Moors gave Belgium a 69-60 advantage four minutes into the quarter and Guy Moya's three brought the hosts within eight points of the elusive 19-point margin (76-65). Matan Naor cut the visitors deficit to eight points with a three pointer, but Axel Hervelle's basket from beyond the arc with 40 seconds to go gave the hosts an 11-point lead (81-70). Time, however, ran out for Belgium and Israel booked its place in the additional qualifying tournament.