Israel defeated Serbia 83-74 in World Cup Qualifying at the Drive In Arena in Tel Aviv as Coach Oded Katash’s team stayed alive by moving their record to 4-5 with a trip to Georgia on tap for Monday. Captain Guy Pnini scored three crucial 3-pointers while Tamir Blatt sliced and diced the Serbian defense over the final frame handing out a critical assist to Yovel Zoosman, hitting a pair of triples and making steal after steal in the 4th quarter to help the Blue & White to the win. Blatt flirted with a triple-double with 10 points, 9 assists and 7 steals, Pnini dropped 18 points, Jake Cohen added 14 points and Zoosman chipped in with 10 points in the victory. Dragan Milosavljevic scored 17 points, Marko Simonovic added 13 points and Miroslav Raduljica had 12 points in the loss.
Israel and Serbia played a very tight 20 minutes as neither squad was able to breakaway from the other after the visitor’s took a 2-point lead into halftime 45-43. Cohen, Dawson and Zoosman led the way with 7 points a piece as Blatt dished out 6 assists. Milosavljevic added 12 points, Raduljica and Bircevic each dropped 8 points in a fairly even half.
The Blue & White continued to play Serbia neck and neck throughout the 3rd quarter, but in the final frame it was all Israel as Katash’s squad dominated the visitor’s 24-14 to take the win. With the score all tied up at 68, Pnini drilled home back to back three pointers to give Israel a 74-68 lead. However, a picky Serbia evened it up at 74 until Blatt hit a three of his own, the made an impossible assist to Zoosman for a bucket as the captain hit 4 free throws to snag the win.
1) Guy Pnini. What can I say. He hit three after three after three as the game wound down to help the Blue & White to the win. In his first game as Captain, the Hapoel Holon forward was dominant from beyond the arc as Israel went 13/32 from long distance. Coach Katash spoke about the veteran’s contribution, “There’s only one Guy Pnini. Everyone was looking for him and the whole tam supported one another and that’s the way it’s supposed to be.” Pnini commented about how crucial the win was, “It was a big one for us and important one. We had two tough losses last window and we bounced back for the win.”
2) Defeating Serbia is never simple. Although they didn’t have their best players who are in the NBA, the can certainly field a quality squad. Katash pointed that out as well while looking ahead knowing that destiny is in their own hands, but with some tough games ahead, “Serbia may not have had their best squad but they brought a very high quality team. We still have a chance and we’re still alive, We play every game to win and now it’s off to Georgia for a tough game.”
3) Oded Katash coached a magnificent game and enjoyed to only terrific games from Pnini and Blatt but also from a trio of Maccabi players in Jake Cohen, Yovel Zoosman and John Dibartolomeo who made his Blue & White debut. Cohen, “It feels really good and it;its been a good two days. A win today and a win yesterday. Its a a really add situation going form one game to the next in 15 ghouls but we had a good effort today and a great team effort.” John D but didn’t play for Maccabi against Bayern Munich featured prominently against Serbia, “We’re in the driver’s seat but we have a tough game at Georgia and they beat us at home a couple of moths ago. They have a strong team but I think if we play together we can pull it out.”
Credit to Yovel Zoosman, huge baskets in back to back games in two different competitions. “Yovel is terrific and played serous minutes yesterday,” said Katash. Bottom line, Israel basketball fans have a lot to look forward to going forward with the youth movement.