National basketball team in a must-win situation against Bosnia

Tzvika Sherf: "The chances of reaching the European championship are very slim."

Jamie Arnold  298.88 (photo credit: AP)
Jamie Arnold 298.88
(photo credit: AP)
Israel faces its moment of truth on Saturday night when it visits Bosnia-Herzegovina for its fourth game of Eurobasket 2007 qualifying. Israel's fate is no longer in its own hands after the 67-61 loss against Portugal on Wednesday evening and the squad will need to win its remaining three games and hope that other results go its way to have any chance of qualifying directly to the European championship. The top team in each of the four preliminary groups and the two second-placed teams with the best records qualify. The remaining 10 teams will play in a last-chance tournament next summer, from which one more nation will book its place in the championship. "The chances of reaching the European championship are very slim," Israel coach Tzvika Sherf told Army radio on Thursday. "Those who don't win don't deserve to speak of their chances." Sherf refused to blame the lack of home-court advantage for his team's shortcomings. "We knew we would have to play our games in Sofia, but we believed that we could win all of them. We had our chances to defeat Portugal and we missed them. It's difficult to play without a home court, but I'm not looking for any excuses. I'm not running away from the responsibility; I wanted to win regardless of all the difficulties." Despite the Bosnians losing all three of their matches so far, Saturday's game will be just as difficult for Israel as the previous three. The blue-andwhite began their qualifying campaign with an 88-81 win against the Bosnians in Sofia after trailing for most of the game. A third-quarter comeback secured the victory. However, the poor first-half display revealed problems that would subsequently cost the team dearly. A clumsy offense combined with an erratic defense to doom Israel to defeat in its next two games. "I won't blame any player. The team wins and loses as one," Sherf stressed on Thursday. "We need to try and defeat Bosnia, the players need to grow in confidence and come to Bosnia with the will to win. We won't gain anything by criticizing the players." The star of the Bosnian team is American-born Henry Domercant, who has averaged a team-high 13.7 points per game in the first three qualifying games. The team also includes Damir Mrsic (11.3 ppg), talented youngster Mirza Teletovic (11 ppg) and Jasmin Hukic (9 ppg), who knows his opponents well from his time in the Israeli league. Despite the tough task ahead and the pessimism of his coach, Israel captain Erez Katz remained positive. "The story isn't over yet, we need to hope and believe," Katz said after the loss on Wednesday. "We will fight until the end. I think that we still have a chance to reach the European championship; we shouldn't give up."