Israel pounds Estonia to keep dreams alive

Blue-and-white avenge embarrassing home loss, led by Casspi’s 26, to retake 3rd place.

Omri Casspi 370 (photo credit: Israel Basketball Association)
Omri Casspi 370
(photo credit: Israel Basketball Association)
Israel remained in the hunt for a place in EuroBasket 2013 on Sunday night with an 84-53 thrashing of Estonia in Tallinn.
Estonia seriously complicated Israel’s situation in Group A when it stunned the blue-and-white on the road two weeks ago, but there would be no repeat of that humbling defeat on Sunday, with the national team pulling ahead in the second quarter and sailing to a comfortable win in the second half.
Israel, which improved to a 4-3 record and leapfrogged Estonia into third place, hosts Iceland on Wednesday and Slovakia on Saturday in two games it will be a firm favorite to win before ending its qualifying campaign at Serbia next Tuesday.
Three wins in its remaining qualifiers will secure Israel a place in the European Championships for an 11th straight time as one of the group’s top two teams.
However, knowing how difficult it will be to win in Serbia, the blue-and-white will already be keeping an eye on the other five qualifying groups as the four best third-placed teams will also advance to EuroBasket 2013 in Slovenia.
Omri Casspi was superb for Israel once more on Sunday, scoring 26 points, hitting 10 of 12 shots, including three of four from beyond the arc.
Lior Eliyahu added 21 points and 11 rebounds, with Yogev Ohayon contributing nine points, seven boards and seven assists.
Janar Talts had 14 points for Estonia, which shot a horrible 16.1 percent (5 of 31) from three-point range while being outrebounded 49-34.
Israel got off to an erratic start, but an 8-0 run capped by a Casspi bucket gave the visitors a five-point advantage (15-10).
Guy Pnini’s basket to end the first quarter opened a 21-13 gap and the blue-and-white was ahead by doubledigits (40-30) at the break.
Israel’s big three of Casspi, Eliyahu and Ohayon scored 32 of the team’s 40 points in the first 20 minutes, with the hosts firing an awful two of 14 from beyond the arc.
After squandering a 17-point lead against Estonia at home, Israel knew that a 10-point halftime gap guaranteed it nothing and it surged ahead with an excellent start to the second half.
Yotam Halperin hit a three, Eliyahu got in on the act once more and Casspi’s basket with 4:20 to go in the period gave Israel a 21-point (53-32) margin.
Estonia continued to recklessly hurl shots from beyond the arc, hitting just 9.1 percent (2 of 22) of its three-point attempts in the first three quarters, and Israel cruised in the final 10 minutes after taking a 19-point gap (59-40) into the final frame.