Israel looks to hit magic number against Czechia as Play In beckons

Jun 17, 2023 | Holyland Hoops

Israel will look to keep its hopes of advancing past the Group Stage of the 2023 FIBA Women’s EuroBasket on Sunday when it plays its final group game against the Czech Republic on Sunday. Although on paper the Czech team (ranked 23rd in the world) is not as daunting as its previous opponents (Belgium is ranked 7th and Italy is ranked 14th), the Czechs beat Italy in their opening game 61-58 (Israel lost to them 68-88) and lost to Belgium in their second game 41-84 (Israel lost to them 59-108).

Neither team can advance directly to the quarterfinals in Slovenia after Sunday’s game, however each has the opportunity to advance to Monday’s play-in game against the second- or third-ranked team in Group A, the other possibility being elimination. For Israel, it’s a must-win game, but not even a win may be enough: if Belgium beats Italy (which is a good chance to happen, given their performances to date in the tournament), then Israel will need to beat the Czech Republic by at least 12 points to keep their tournament alive.

“Now, our number if I think right, is 12,” Israel’s coach, Sharon Drucker, said. “We have one more chance and we’re going to call it 12 and we’re going to fight. I know my players – they will come and after the day off. We will fight, we will get ready with our fans and we will try to do the impossible.”

Alex Cohen – Photo Credit: FIBA

“To be honest, I don’t think it’s impossible,” Israel’s center Alex Cohen said confidently. “A little credit for us, I think we can definitely do it. We won the last quarter [against Italy], we showed many sparks of greatness during the game. A few things didn’t go our way, but things that are definitely fixable – things that we’ve practiced, no more and-one threes in the first quarter, little things like that. We just need to take what we know and what we can do and execute on Sunday.”

Some of those mistakes included turnovers and poor shooting from the floor, something which Drucker pointed out need to be improved for the game against the Czech Republic.

“Turnovers and percentage for 3, that’s for sure,” Drucker said. “On Thursday [against Belgium] we made 10 3s at a good percentage [45%.5%], today we didn’t [5 of 27, 29.4%]. Turnovers [23 against Belgium and 19 against Italy], it’s clear that the aggressiveness, full court, their bench – they’re bringing 12 players on the floor, it’s not easy for the players – they are changing and changing, it’s not easy, but I think that this is the main point and what I think we need to do.”

Sharon Drucker – Photo Credit: FIBA

The Czech team has similar issues from their game on Friday against Belgium, scoring 5/26 at 19.2% from 3 and conceding 23 turnovers. They will also need to focus on rebounding, as will Israel. Both teams have struggled with rebounding against their opponents to date (even the Czechs with their win over Italy), with Israel 58-77 in the aggregate and the Czech Republic 62-82 in the aggregate.

“Rebounding is really a problem of the team because we don’t have a lot of tall players,” Romana Ptackova said after the loss to Belgium on Friday. “We have some injuries, so it has to be a team effort for us. Also, we need help rebounding from the perimeter, from the guards. But rebounding was the biggest problem for us against Belgium – it was turnovers, missed chances from the outside and a combination of effort and other stuff.”

Gabriela Andelova – Photo Credit: FIBA

“We kind of expected that we would lose to Belgium because they are such a great and experienced team and one of the favorites for the medal,” Czech small forward Gabriea Andelova said of the big loss to Belgium. However, the prospect of playing in front of a hostile Israeli crowd is a challenge that she’s eager for on Sunday. “I’m looking forward to a full crowd, because I think I play better when the arena is full.”

If one thing is for sure, it’s that Israel will leave it all on the court on Sunday.

“I’m optimistic, I always try to look at the bright side and that’s what I told the players,” Drucker said. “They are warriors and they will come to fight.”

Cohen concurred. “You know, we have one more game left and we still have more to show.”

Alex Cohen – Photo Credit: Yehuda Halickman

In Sunday’s other Group B game, Belgium plays against Italy (15:15 IDT / 8:15 EDT).

In Sunday’s Group A games, Montenegro takes on Latvia (12:15 IDT / 5:15 EDT) and Spain faces Greece (20:45 IDT / 13:45 EDT).

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