EUROBASKET WOMEN QUALIFIERS
|Israel guard Noa Ganor on her way to a lay-up and two of her 11 valuable points on Saturday night against Belarus |
By Paul Nilsen
Israel has one of the most impressive EuroBasket Women qualification histories around and when their super record of repeated success in qualifying came under serious threat last weekend, an unlikely source emerged to help save the day.
Most people had assumed Israel were done and dusted, their proud run of being a near permanent fixture at EuroBasket Women Final Round very much over.
After all, they were down by double-digits at home to Belarus last Saturday with just a few minutes left on the clock and slipping out of contention.
Step forward Liron Cohen, the veteran playmaker who scored eight points down the stretch to grab the headlines as Israel claimed a famous and near heart-stopping success to deny their rivals a place in France next summer - albeit perhaps temporarily.
Only it could be argued that it wasn't Cohen who was the most critical factor.
By her own admission, she didn't play well with just one score during the first 35 minutes of the game ahead of her late and decisive flurry.
Arguably, most important of all was the performance of Noa Ganor who kept Israel ticking over earlier in the contest.
Without her efforts, Israel would indeed have been dead and buried with Cohen's late show most likely rendered useless.
Ganor performed brilliantly with 11 points from a highly efficient five-of-seven floor shooting and, unsurprisingly, she was thrilled after the contest.
"From what I have played so far in the national uniform and considering I have only played for the last two years, this has to be my best game," explained the guard.
|Israel's duo of 'usual suspects', Liron Cohen and Shay Doron, had some help on offense this time from an unlikely source in the shape of Ganor|
"I can not describe in words how happy I am to win."
The satisfaction of Ganor should be replicated around women's basketball in Israel.
For while they have probably only prolonged the inevitable disappointment in a fiercely competitive Group A, Saturday was a big positive.
It would have been so easy for Israel to just accept their fate - they didn't.
They kept believing, thrilled the home supporters with a great victory and it showed the team has incredible amounts of passion and pride.
Most importantly of all, whether Israel manages to complete a truly great escape or not, it was fantastic to see other players like Ganor make a telling impact, instead of only Cohen and their usual kingpin Shay Doron.
That may be some significant consolation in the medium term, if potential wins against Hungary and Portugal this week don't prove sufficient to guarantee them their usual Final Round place.