Local Hoops: Israel loses to Bulgaria

Coach Tzvika Sherf: This was a game we should have won.

Israel suffered defeat in its first warm-up game for the EuroBasket 2007 last-chance tournament, losing 72-65 to Bulgaria in Sofia on Friday night. The national team held a slender lead throughout the first three quarters of the game, but a 10-0 Bulgarian run in the final period gave the hosts a lead they wouldn't relinquish. "I'm disappointed with the defeat," coach Tzvika Sherf said. "This was a game we should have won. Even though this was our first warm-up game I demand more of my players and expect them to win." Meir Tapiro led the team with 12 points, with Jeron Roberts adding 10 points. "We divided the minutes between all the squad members, but I'm not going to use this as an excuse," Sherf said. "The team did its job for the first three quarters of the game, but we made too many mistakes in the fourth period. We didn't take enough defensive rebounds and missed too many free throws and that led to our defeat." Israel, which faced Bulgaria for a second straight day late Saturday night, visits Denmark in its first game of the last-chance tournament on August 8 and will play five more qualifiers in the following two weeks. The team needs to finish first in its group, which also includes Ukraine and Belgium, to qualify for a three-team competition in Madrid later in August. The winner of a three-team contest in Madrid will advance to the European basketball championships to be held in Spain at the beginning of September.