Israel bounces Lithuania in the QF; face France in Semis

The Under-20 Israel National Basketball Team defeated Lithuania 94-78 in the European Championships in Tel Aviv and advanced to Saturday night’s second semifinal against France. After a back and forth first half the blue-and-white once again used a big third quarter to pull away for good. Deni Avdija dominated the game for Israel with 16 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 steals, Raz Adam scored 17 points and Eidan Alber checked in with 16 points in the win. Lucas Uleckas led Lithuania with 23 points in the loss.

The three other semifinalists were determined earlier in the day. France eased by Croatia 71-63 thanks to strong play by Dylan Affo Mama (17 points) and Ludovic Beyhurst (14 points) as they’ll play Israel in the late Saturday semifinal. Germany disposed of upstart Great Britain 81-56 as the British couldn’t replicate their shocking victory over Serbia in the Round of 16. Phillipp Herkenhoff led the way with 22 points and 8 rebounds while Jonas Mattisseck added 16 points in the dominant win.

The German squad will take on Spain who squeaked by Turkey 70-69 after Muhayim Mustafa missed the back end of a pair of free throws with a second left on the game clock. Sergi Martinez clocked in with 21 points and 9 rebounds while Josep Busquets chipped in with 19 points in the hard earned win.

Ariel Beit Halachmi’s squad came into the contest after handily beating Montenegro 88-69 and looked to continue their momentum into a tough quarterfinal clash with Lithuania who had defeated Israel in a warmup tournament a week earlier in the same arena.

Israel raced out to a 14-4 lead midway through the first quarter on the strength of Deni Avdija and Amit Suss’s fine play but Lithuania charged back thanks to 9 points from Lukas Uleckas to cut the lead to 20-18 after ten minutes of action.

The blue-and-white received inspired play by Eidan Alber with 14 points over the first half of the second frame to put Israel up 47-31, but Lithuania didn’t lay down and finished the quarter off with a 13-6 run to close the gap to 53-44 at halftime.

Lithuania came out on fire in the second half and went on a quick 7-0 run as Uleckas once again played the part of catalyst but Raz Adam drilled home a pair of triples to give Israel a 10-point 63-53 advantage midway through the third quarter.

Beit Halachmi’s squad continued to hit their shots at will to give Israel a 76-61 lead after thirty minutes of play. Israel then held Lithuania in check throughout the final ten minutes as they wrapped up a 94-78 victory and a date with France in the late Saturday night semifinal.

3-Pointers
1) Coach Beit Halachmi finally got the complete game he was waiting for from Israel as they dismantled a good Lithuania team. The Blue & White had looked good the previous 4 games but against Lithuania they were absolutely fantastic on both sides of the ball. The offense was potent, run and gun and the defense was fabulous. Just what the Dr. ordered against a team that many felt was better than Israel. “The players gave everything they had and they showed that we are a team. I’m really happy,” the coach said following the game. “Just like last year I feel that we advanced to the semifinals because of the players. What they did defensively today was incredible.”

2) While were on the defensive side of the game, Raz Adam who was terrific also offensively spoke about the key to the game from his point of view, “I was able to take Arnas Velicka (2/16 from the field) from the game and each one of us is giving our heart and soul.” he also talked about coming up big for Israel, “It’s a long championship and I feel that each one of us will have their day.” Deni Avdija also talked about the how he recorded 4 blacked shots, “When you’re with the senior team (Maccabi Tel Aviv) there are certain things that you pick up, both defensively and offensively. We have to do everything to win and I’m happy that we did so.”

3) Israel now faces a strong France team in the semifinals, but one of that they’ll have two days to prepare for. “I am not that familiar with France,” began Beit Halachmi. “We will have to study the film on them, but we have an off day and the truth is we have to continue to focus on ourselves.” Captain Yair Kravits also talked about the semis against France, “The French are strong, we will prepare accordingly and we will give our maximum.”

They said it…
Ariel Beit Halachmi – “We have to enjoy this experience and that’s what I have been telling the players.”

Raz Adam – “I’ve been excited from day one since I put on the Blue & White uniform and it’s always great. I would feel the same even if there were only 2 people in the stands.”

Eidan Alber – “The loss to Lithuania in the warmup tournament was still fresh in our minds. I think you were able to see the improvement in the defensive side since then.”

Deni Avdija – “I grabbed Pini Gershon and I said to him that here we are in the semifinals and that he thought we wouldn’t get there.”

Yam Madar – “Deni called us the Dynamic Duo but he can decide if he’s Batman or Robin.”