Israel defeated Poland 78-72 to advance to the 2022 EuroBasket for the 14th time in a row and move their Group A qualifying record to a perfect 4-0. Veteran sharp shooter Guy Pnini scored a critical 3-pointer with time running down to put the finishing touches on a blue-and-white team effort that saw all 12 roster players score. Jake Cohen and Gal Mekel led the way early while Tomer Ginat and Nimrod Levi played well late before Pnini made his huge shot to put the icing on the cake and send Israel to the continental competition in September of 2022.
Cohen led the way with 14 points, Mekel added 12 points, Pnini put in ten while Tomer Ginat scored 8 points and grabbed 8 rebounds. Mateusz Ponitka topped Poland’s scorers with 23 points while Michal Sokolowski added 15 points in the loss.
“We have a lot of young players but they have grown up really fast,” said a satisfied Israel coach Oded Katash. “We knew that we were going to advance but we wanted to do it in style and win. We began poorly but showed character against a team that played very well against Romania and beat Spain as well. But I have to tip my hat to the players.”
Tomer Ginat was also all smiled following the win, “I try to do my best and play as well as I can with the National Team but it’s a team game and we all played together for the win. It’s a great feeing and we are a very special team as we really enjoy playing with each other and to be able to advance to the EuroBasket with a 4-0 record is really something else.”
Jake Cohen opened up the scoring for Israel but Poland came back with a lay-up and 3-pointer by Michal Sokolowski, however, a Tomer Ginat bucket and a Cohen turnaround jumper out Israel ahead 7-5 midway through the first quarter. Poland came back as Lukasz Koszarek hit a jumper, Aaron Cel put in an easy two off the glass and Mateusz Ponitka scored an easy basket over Tamir Blatt which forced blue-and-white coach Oded Katash to call time out. Damian Kulig added points for Mike Taylor’s squad but Idan Zalmason scored in the paint, Yam Madar nailed his free throws and Ginat finished off the frame with basket as Poland stayed in front 18-16 after ten minutes of action.
Ponitka got the second quarter started with a layup but Zalmanson answered with a jumper at the other end and Gal Mekel drained an off balance shot but Dominik Olejniczak scored a hook shot to give Poland a 25-20 lead with 6:40 remaining in the first half. Iftach Ziv scored a trio of free throws and Cohen drove inside to score while Mekel drained the first triple of the game to give Israel a 29-27 advantage with 4:04 to go in the frame. Zalmanson with points in the paint, Ziv with a dunk and another pair of points plus a Guy Pnini 3-pointer and Ben Carter free throws gave Israel a a 41-32 lead at halftime.
Cohen got the third quarter underway with points down low, Pnini drilled another triple but Cel and Ponitka scored to keep pace but Israel stays in front 47-39 midway through the frame. Mekel went from deep but Lukasz Koszarek scored a 3-pointer while Kulig and Michal Michalak put in free throws for a 7-0 run. Nimrod Levi and Rafi Menco scored in the paint, however Michalak put on a scoring clinic but Levi, Ginat and Blatt bumped the Israel lead back up to 62-52 after thirty minutes of play.
Madar and Levi scored for Israel but Ponitka and Sokolowski nailed back-to-back 3-pointers to cut the lead to 65-61 with 7:56 remaining in the fourth quarter. Cohen with free throws broke a scoreless streak of over 3 minutes by both teams, Golan Gutt hit from beyond the arc and Mekel nailed a jumper but Ponitka and kept Poland hanging around as Israel held the advantage 72-66 with 3:29 to go. Sokolowski went from deep, Ponitka stole the ball and went in for a dunk but Pnini drilled home a big time triple to seal the deal and send Israel to EuroBasket 2022.