Israel finishes first in group play, heads to Poland for Olympic Pre-Qualifying Tourney Final 4

Aug 15, 2023 | Holyland Hoops

Israel advanced to the semifinals of the Olympic Pre-Qualifying Tournament despite coming tip short against Estonia 67-65 in their third and final group game. By finishing with a 2-1 record in round robin play they will now head to Gliwice along with Estonia who finished in second place ahead of Czechia and North Macedonia where they will look to advance to the 2024 Paris Olympic qualification tournament next summer. The blue-and-white will only find out their opponent in the Final Four on Wednesday when Poland, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Portugal and Hungary finish their group play.

Photo Credit: FIBA

Estonia jumped out to a double digit lead early on in the first quarter as Artur Konontsuk and Miki Jurkatamm led the way to help the hosts to a 20-12 lead after ten minutes of play. Yair Kravits, Bar Timor, Gaby Chachashvili and Yam Madar all got busy for Israel as the second quarter got underway, Kaspar Treier answered as did Mihkel Kirves and Kristian Kullamae, but Roman Sorkin pulled Ariel Beit Halachmi’s squad to just a pair of points down at halftime, 36-34.

Sorkin on the inside, Kravits and Oz Blayzer from the outside got very busy in the third quarter to give Israel a 48-38 lead midway through the period, but Konontsuk, Hugo Toom and Sander Raiseste responded to retake the lead 52-50 after thirty minuets of action. Madar and Sorkin scored to begin the final frame, Treier, Konontsuk and Joonas Rissmaa came back with points, Timor nailed a key 3-pointer, however, it wasn’t enough to take the victory as they fell 67-65 to Estonia but advance to the semifinals in Poland on Friday.

Yam Madar – Photo Credit: FIBA

Sorkin with 18 points, Timor added 13 points and Kravits scored 9 points for Israel while Treier with 16 points and Konontsuk with 12 points paced Estonia.

“It was a very aggressive and physical game,” Beit Halachmi said. “We weren’t able to really play our game but we showed character after a rough start. We didn’t rebound well in this game which was something that we did do fine in the others but at the end of the day we did what we needed to. We didn’t want to head to overtime and we played the last possession well and now we will take a couple, days to rest which is what the players need right now so we can be ready for the next stage.”

Yair Kravits looked back at the game, “I’m happy that we were able to reach our goal. We didn’t begin the game well and we got back into it and finished in first place in the group. We’ll head to Poland on Wednesday and it doesn’t matter who your opponent is as we will do everything that we can to get to the final. We are a national team with a lot of faith and we will continue to believe.”

Bar Timor – Photo Credit: FIBA

Captain Bar Timor also reflected on the game, “We were able to reach one of our goals which was to finish in first place in what was a very tough and aggressive game. Perhaps we were a bit tired at the end and we could have won, but that’s part of the deal. But we lost within the point differential we needed to and ended at the top of the group. We tried to win as I drilled down the clock on the last shot after asking Ariel what to do on the possession but we ended in first place in any case.”

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