Israel looks to bounce back against Estonia

Team seemed set for perfect start to 10-game qualifying campaign when it held 8-point gap over Montenegro in 4th period.

Israel- Montenegro game 370 (photo credit: Israel Basketball Association)
Israel- Montenegro game 370
(photo credit: Israel Basketball Association)
Israel will be confident of getting its EuroBasket 2013 qualifying campaign up and running when it hosts Estonia in Rishon Lezion on Saturday night after dropping to a dejecting defeat to Montenegro in its Group A opener on Wednesday.
The national team seemed set for a perfect start to its 10-game qualifying campaign when it held an eight-point gap over Montenegro in Podgorica early in the fourth period.
However, Israel coach Arik Shivek was given plenty to mull over after his players lost their head in the closing stages to lose to their main rivals for second position in the group.
Perennial powerhouse Serbia is the firm favorite to win the group, which also includes the weaker Slovakia, Estonia and Iceland.
The top two teams from the six qualifying groups and the four best third-placed teams will make up the 16 sides who will join Spain, France, Russia, FYR of Macedonia, Lithuania, Greece, Great Britain and the hosts Slovenia in EuroBasket 2013.
“I’m disappointed with the defeat to Montenegro.
“We missed shots we usually make, but that is basketball,” Shivek said on Thursday.
“We have to look at the big picture and remember that this is just a single defeat in a 10-game campaign.”
Estonia hasn’t reached the European Championships since 2001, but it thrashed Slovakia 95-74 in its first qualifier on Wednesday behind 16 points and 11 rebounds from Janar Talts, who plays for Italy’s Varese, with the Estonians second star, Montepaschi Siena forward, Kangur Kristjan, adding 15 points.
“We should have beaten Montenegro, we were the better team,” said Omri Casspi, who had 17 points and eight rebounds in Wednesday’s loss.
“We were not overconfident. It was our first qualifier of the campaign and it was on the road.
“We will need to continue to work on our game.
“We face a tough game on Saturday.
"Estonia won by 21 points and we will have to take the game to them.
“We are going to need the support of the crowd on Saturday, especially as we are playing in Rishon and not at Nokia Arena.”