The Israel National Team pounded North Macedonia 86-65 to open up the Olympic Pre-Qualifying Tournament with a win in Tallinn, Estonia. The blue-and-white dominated play right from the get go as they scored early and often to stymie the opposition throughout the game as Roman Sorkin starred with 21 points to lead five players in double digits. Next up for head coach Ariel Beit Halachmi’s squad is a date with Czechia on Sunday at 4pm who defeated the hosts 77-74 in a very close clash earlier on Saturday. Israel will tip off against Estonia on Tuesday in their third and final group sated game that will ultimately determine which two teams will head to Poland for the Final Four and the lone spot available in Olympic qualifying next summer.
The blue-and-white began the game well with Yam Madar putting his mark on the contest early to give Ariel Beit Halachmi’s squad a 24-19 lead the opening quarter while Roman Sorkin and Iftach Ziv also found points to head into halftime with a 47-38 advantage. TJ Shorts tried to keep his team in the game but points by Bar Timor, Netanel Artzi and Oz Blayzer along with Sorkin and Ziv closed out the game as Israel took the 21-point victory.
Sorkin led the way with 21 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists, Ziv added 18 points and 7 boards, Madar and Timor each scored 12 points while Artzi chipped in with 10 points in the win. Shorts paced Macedonia with 22 points in the loss.
“We came in ready and we played well,” Beit Halachmi said. “Now we have to prepare well for tomorrow’s game. There’s no question that it was exciting but it’s a job that I am familiar with. Splitting up the minutes is important but there is very little time here as there are back to back games. The opponents we played against in exhibition action were similar to the style of the teams that we are going to play here and we wanted to score a lot in this game which is how we like to play. All in all we had a good run up to this tournament. Both the Czechs and Estonia are better teams that Macedonia and we will have to start preparing for that game right now.”
Iftach Ziv who was part of the starting lineup also spoke about the win, “It’s great and this was really a team win but it was only the first game and we have to be prepared for Sunday’s contest. We knew that this was the weakest team in the group and now we have two games against the teams that will be battling it out to advance to the next stage. The staff will get us ready and we will be prepared for the next game. I feel good because we played well as a team. We started well and we were very aggressive and if we play like this we are very good.”
Finally, Netanel Artzi looked back at the victory as well, “It feels great and gave us a lot of confidence right off the bat. We have a very important game on Sunday and we have to come into that ready to go but we also have to have in mind that the game will be against a totally different team that is strong and solid. We feel good and happy that we started off this tournament on the right foot but now we are looking ahead to the next game.”