The Israel Under-18 National Team hosted Lithuania in their first game of the FIBA Challenger Tournament and took a decisive 100-71 victory. The Blue & White jumped out to a big lead but Lithuania rallied to go into halftime up by a point. However, MVP Ron Zipper ripped the Lithuanians to shreds together with captain Nevo Sommerfeld and Hapoel Tel Aviv guard Ofek Gol over the second half of the game to overwhelm the visitors and chalk up the win.
Zipper led all scorers with 28 points, Sommerfeld added 24 points and Gol checked in with 16 points in the win. Emilia Butkus was the high scorer for the Lithuanians with 22 points in the loss.
“We had a great 4th quarter,” explained Sommerfeld. “We played against a basketball empire. We came into the game as a team and we won as a team, it was really incredible.”
Sommerfeld also spoke about some of the issues that the team needed to contend with, “We had a tough time with rebounds, but we knew how to overcome that like men. I want to thank the fans that were here today and I want them to come back for every game this week.”
The captain made sure to deflect any credit for his individual effort, “I didn’t expect to have a big game but I wasn’t great, it was the team that made it great. We came in and we battled and we will continue to do so.”
As for Ron Zipper’s fabulous 28 point performance, Sommerfeld made sure to praise the game’s most valuable player, “I don’t know if you know this but it was his first game with the national team. He was huge and was a real man. I want to wish him the best of success going forward. He’s a great player.”
Israel couldn’t have gotten off to a better start as the Blue & White jumped all over Lithuania to grab a 25-9 lead thanks to buckets by Ofek Gol and Nevo Sommerfeld with under two minutes remaining in the first quarter. However, Emilia Butkus rattled off 7 points before the end of the frame to cut the advantage to 25-18 at the end of ten minutes of play.
Ron Zipper helped Oren Aharoni’s squad bump up their lead to begin the second quarter but Mintautas Mockus and Butkus were able to not only cut the advantage for Lithuania but go into halftime ahead 37-36.
Gol, Sommerfeld and Zipper started knocking down their 3-pointers in the third quarter while Yuval Levin orchestrated the offense as Israel retook the lead 64-58 by the end of the third quarter.
Zipper kept pouring in the points while Gol, Levin and Avner Dror also filled the basket in the fourth quarter to help israel run away with the 29-point win.