Israel defeated Spain 95-87 thanks to a ferocious second half comeback to move their EuroBasket qualifying record to 3-0. After going down by 18 points in the first half, the blue-and-white used a massive third quarter shooting display from beyond the arc to pull within striking distance as Tamir Blatt and Gal Mekel couldn’t miss in the second half to take the win.
Blatt led the way for Oded Katash’s squad with 21 points and 9 assists, Gal Mekel scored 18 points, Jake Cohen and Tomer Ginat added 17 points a piece scoring both inside and outside while Yam Madar chipped in with 11 points in the win. Quino Colom scored 24 points and Xabi Lopez-Arostegui scored 13 points in the loss.
Head Coach Oded Katash couldn’t hide his excitement after the huge victory, “Not only did we beat a great team in Spain, but it was the way we did it. We made a great effort to comeback in the second half and I told my players to just stick to the game plan and believe that we can do it. This was really special and can give us confidence for the future.”
Tomer Ginat also commented on the win and looked ahead to Monday’s clash with Poland, “It was a great win for us and the comeback showed our character. Spain are a great team and we knew it was going to be a hard mission for us and know we will do everything we can to win on Monday.”
Israel will face Poland on Monday at 17:30 in their second Valencia bubble game. The Polish squad defeated Romania 91-61 to move to 2-1 in group play. All 12 players featured for at least 10 minutes in the win as Michal Sokolowski scored 12 points and grabbed 7 rebounds while Jaroslaw Zyskowski added 13 points to drop Romania to 0-3 in group play.
Poland’s coach Mike Taylor spoke about what he expects to see from Israel, “I have big respect for the Israeli team the players and coaches. I like Oded Katash personally and their style of play. They’re an outstanding pick and roll team and play outstanding basketball. They are showing their potential the last few games with great shooting and just efficient play. They beat us and outplayed us in Poland in what was a well deserved win for them and we’re looking forward to playing them again.”
Jose Miguel Perez Balbuena opened the game up by putting an alley-pop pass from Alberto Diaz but Jake Cohen drilled a pair of text book triples at the other end to get things going for Israel. Captain Gal Mekel hit a runner and Tomer Ginat scored a 3-pointer but both Diaz and Dario Brizuela went from deep to give Spain a 13-10 lead midway through the first quarter. Tamir Blatt thread the needle to Ginat in the paint and added more points down low while Yam Madar nailed a floater but Quino Colom found baskets inside, outside and on the line to give Sergio Scariolo’s team a 27-21 lead after ten minutes.
Colom began the second quarter with a driving lay-up and then drilled a triple to give Spain an 11-point lead and forced Israeli coach Oded Katash to call time out. Colom scored yet again and Xavier Rabaseda went from beyond the arc but Madar scored an uncontested layup however, Spain stayed ahead 40-25 with 5:25 left in the first half. Francisco Alonso added his name to the Spain scoresheet with five points and Xabi Lopez-Arostegui hit a pair of 3-pointers and Ruben Guerrero Pino scored a layup to give Spain a 52-36 advantage at the half.
Israel came out of the break shooting to get back into the game as both Cohen, Rafi Menco and Blatt began the third quarter with back-to-back-to back 3-pointers and then Blatt added another to quickly cut Spain’s lead to 54-48 just 2:27 into the frame. Mekel scored a pair of layups and Ginat nailed a triple as Israel knotted the score up at 58-58 midway through the period. Blatt to Mekel gave Israel more points as did Ginat and Madar but Lopez-Arostegui and Colom combined to make sure Spain remained in the lead 72-67.
Javier Beiran and Mekel traded baskets to start off the fourth quarter while Blatt nailed yet another 3-pointer while Mekel and Colom also scored for their respective teams but Blatt with another triple pulled Israel to within one points, 79-78 with 5:10 remaining in regulation time. Ginat with a pair of quick baskets put Israel in the lead, Cohen put down a mega dunk but once again Colom split the blue-and-white defense for a layup to keep the game neck and neck with under 2 minutes to go. Blatt and Cohen put in free throws Rafi Menco drilled in a corner triple to bring Israel all the way back to take the 8-point victory.