The Israel Under-20 National Team defeated Turkey 82-73 to punch their ticket to the semifinals of the European Championships where they will face Spain on Saturday night at 22:00 Israel time. The Blue & White used fine second half performances by captain Noam Dovrat, Gilad Levy and Harel Rinski to break a 34-34 tie at halftime to take the victory.
Oren Aharoni’s team came into the matchup with Turkey after disposing of Slovenia in the Round of 16 as they looked to move into the final four of the competition which is exactly what they were able to accomplish. Much heralded Turkish big man Adem Bona who is originally from Nigeria and will be attending UCLA in the fall, was trouble for Israel but Levy and Rinski were able to keep him in check despite scoring 12 points and grabbing 10 boards.
However, Dovrat made up for a tough first half over the course of the final twenty minutes to finish the game with 16 points, 6 rebounds and 5 steals while Rinski added 19 points and Levy checked in with 14 points in the win.
“We were able to get over a tough hurdle as Turkey is excellent,” Dovrat said following the game. “This was an important game for the team and we came in very cool, calm and collected in order to do what we need to. After last game we knew grater we wanted to keep it up and win the next. Now we are looking ahead to Spain as we will rest up a bit and come in as ready as we possibly can in order to give the best that we are able to.”
Gilad Levy who played the past few seasons for Estudiantes in Spain is familiar with a number of players that Israel will be preparing for when they play on Saturday night, “I know these players as I played against them. I will come in focussed and I know what to do as we will battle as hard as we can to guarantee a medal.”
The Israel Maccabiah team was also in action as they needed to mount a huge second half comeback to defeat Argentina 84-74. The Blue & White under the direction of head coach Adir Amar started off a bit slow and went down 43-39 at halftime. As Argentina continued to increase their lead all the way up to 59-41 midway through the third quarter, Nir Sheffer began to heat up to score 10 of his 19 points in the frame while captain Nevo Sommerfeld nailed a last gasp three-quarter court heave to cut tend deficit to 63-60 after thirty minutes of play.
The final period was all Blue & White as Sheffer added another 9 points and Daniel Guetta scored 8 of his 17 points over the course of the course of the final 10 minutes to take the victory. Next up will be the bronze medal game against Canada on Sunday at 11am at the YMCA.
“We lost our aggressiveness in the first half and we had a tough time dealing with them in their half court defense,” Amar said following the game. “We lost a lot of confidence and we weren’t able to play our game. But I am very proud of the guys as to how we came back and I think that with a very young national team that is something that is very, very important. It’s not just about digging such big hole it’s a matter of finding a way out and the payers deserve all of the credit for that.”
“We were able to come all the way back by playing aggressive one-on-one defense which helped their confidence return and we are able to also run. We showed a lot of character in the second half and this was a good experience that our players received today.”
Nir Sheffer who was the game’s MVP reflected on the win, “Every day it’s another player who comes to the forefront and today it was me. In other games it was Roi Behar, Daniel Guetta and Ariel Isaak and that is what is unique with this team. I always try to get my game going on the defensive end and that influences how I play on the attack. I am happy things went well and that is the most important thing.”
Captain Nevo Sommerfeld who scored 9 points in his best performance of the Games to date, looked towards a meeting with Canada for the bronze medal, “They are not the same team that we saw at the start of the competition and this game will be totally different than the first time around. We will come into the game to win, take a medal and go home with a big smile.”