Israel drops Poland 69-61 to begin World Cup Qualifying with win

Nov 25, 2021 | Holyland Hoops

Israel defeated Poland 69-61 to open up their World Cup qualifying campaign on the right foot. The blue-and-white came back from an early 15-point deficit on the strength of Yam Madar’s stellar play along with fine showings down the stretch by Jake Cohen and Gal Mekel to take the victory.

Poland came out aggressive from the get go and stunned a shell shocked Israel to go up 19-4 but the hosts began to dig their way out of the early hole as Madar and Tomer Ginat began hitting their shots to take the control of the game in the second quarter. Over the course of the second half, Mekel delivered from the outside as did Guy Pnini while Cohen scored inside as Israel recorded the 8-point win.

Tomer Ginat – Photo Credit: Elay Elad

Tomer Ginat led the way with 11 points and 11 rebounds, Gal Mekel scored 11 points with a trio of 3-pointers all coming in the second, Jake Cohen added 11 points, Guy Pnini chipped in with 9 points while Yam Madar scored 8 points, grabbed 7 rebounds and dished out 5 assists in the win. Michal Kolenda paced Poland with 16 points and Olek Balcerowski added 11 points and 6 blocks in the loss.

Guy Goodes – Photo Credit: FIBA

“Games at the beginning of windows are tough,” Israel coach Guy Goodes began. “We played against a new coach and team. They trapped early and we had to adjust. By the second quarter the bench closed the gap that they had opened and it wasn’t pretty but I’m happy that our defense played well. It was very important to start the window with a win.”

“I’m very sorry for my players as they deserve this win,” Poland Coach Igor Milicic lamented. “We have a lot of talent with this young team and they put everything on the floor. I’m really proud from my guys and if they continue this way they will have a successful future.”

Gal Mekel – Photo Credit: FIBA

Israel captain Gal Mekel also commented about the victory, “It wasn’t pretty but we wanted the win and that was most important. They came out super aggressive and they scored a lot of points in a very short time. Once we got into a flow we played much better and our defense was good in the half court.”

On Friday, Israel will head out to Tallinn where they will play Estonia on Sunday evening in their second game of the window as they will look to record another win. For that game the blue-and-white will have reinforcements as well with Maccabi Tel Aviv captain John DiBartolomeo and forward Roman Sorkin joining the team after their game late Thursday night at ALBA Berlin.

Olek Balcerowski – Photo Credit: FIBA

Jake Cohen opened the game up with a floater in the lane for Israel but Jakub Garbacz and Marcel Ponitka came right back to put in quick baskets off of a pair of blue-and-white turnovers to get the first quarter off to a frantic start. Cohen had issues inside against Olek Balcerowski while Jaroslaw Zyskowski went from downtown as did Michal Kolenda giving the visitors a 13-2 lead midway through the period.

Kolenda put points in the paint, Tomasz Gielo went from deep but Nimrod Levi finally hit Israel’s first triple of the game and Yam Madar put in a floater to keep the blue-and-white competitive but down 21-12 after ten minutes.

Guy Pnini – Photo Credit: FIBA

Guy Pnini and Iftach Ziv put in points to begin the second quarter while Yam Madar added a bucket and Pnini dialled up long distance to pull to within 3-points, 27-24 with 5:01 left in the half. Tomer Ginat finished off a terrific team passing play with an easy look inside, he then added a pair of layups to give Israel a 31-27 lead at halftime.

Kolenda and Mekel traded buckets to get the third quarter underway, Idan Zalmanson made his way by Balcerowski for an layup, Ponitka went from deep as did Rafi Menco to give Guy Goodes’s squad a 39-35 lead midway through the frame. Levi scored inside and Mekel went from the outside as he did it once again off a Madar dish while Cohen added a basket to open up a 10-point, 49-39 lead after thirty minutes of play.

Nimrod Levi – Photo Credit: FIBA

Levi began the fourth quarter with a comer 3-ball, Pnini went from downtown as well, Kolenda matched him at the other end but Levi and Madar continued to fill the basket for Israel as they held a 59-49 advantage with 6:48 remaining in regulation time. Cohen put the ball in off the glass, Balcerowski scored a pair of buckets in the paint and Zyskowski added points as well to cut the lead to 61-55 with 2:21 left. Balcerowski nailed a triple, Cohen responded with points inside, Kolenda once again scored a 3-pointer but Mekel and Cohen scored their free throws to wrap up the win.

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