|30 July 2004|
Unbelievable. Remarkable. Unlikely. Heroic.
Those are just a few of the words that go some way to describing Israel’s amazing win over Serbia & Montenegro here in the quarter-finals of the Eural Trans Gas European Championship for U20 Men.
“This is something that we have worked 2 years for,” said Israeli star up-and-comer Yotam Halperin after the game.
“It’s the dream of every basketball player to beat Serbia & Montenegro in the quarter-finals of a European Championship. This is why we play and work so hard.”
All the odds were stacked against Israel. They were physically outmatched by the Serb & Montenegrins to the point where the 199 cm Elion Zagury was guarding the 217 cm Kosta Perovic. But more worryingly, Halperin was injured.
|Israel's Raviv Limonad had 15 points in the win|
Halperin had picked up an ankle injury and was literally only able to play on one leg. Robbed of his ability to drive to the basket, he was limited to shooting 3-pointers and on defense his team-mates had to constantly switch to make up for his lack of mobility.
Despite the overwhelming obstacles, Halperin still scored 20 points and Israel gave the performance of the tournament.
Although they lost, Serbia & Montenegro gave a creditable performance. They led for almost the whole game and it was only in the final period that Israel took their first lead. Up until that point, the Israelis hung around in contention, but never looked like they had enough gas in the tank to go in front.
Everything changed at the start of the 4th and it was Halperin who hit a three to give his team a 62:60 lead, their first of the game.
Everything was suddenly going Israel’s way and a pair of breakaway dunks from Lior Eliyahu and Igor Simin gave the side a 6-point lead, 68:62.
Serbia & Montenegro were far from beaten and the next 5 minutes was basketball at its high-scoring best. Serbia & Montenegro hit 4 three-pointer in 5 possessions, and while Israel answered with 2 of their own, they surrendered the lead, 73:76.
Things were looking grim for Israel as Serbia & Montenegro had all the momentum going their way.
However, a jump shot from Erez Kohansky and 2 free throws by Halperin tied the score at 80:80 and set the stage for a dramatic finale.
Anton Kazarnovski, who had a great game inside against the Serb & Montenegrin giants, split a pair from the line (81:80), but Kosta Perovic answered with 2 free throws of his own on the next play (81:82).
28 seconds remained for Israel to come up with a basket, and they did in the most unlikely fashion. Halperin missed a 3-pointer, but Kohansky came up with a rebound and shot, that missed again. Then Kazarnovski managed to get inside, tip the ball in and was fouled, 83:82.
Kazarnovski missed the ensuing free throw, and with 4.4 seconds on the clock, Serbia & Montenegro got the ball to an open Perovic for a 3-pointer. It hit the rim and missed and Israel will advance to the semi-finals.
Kazarnovski finished with 19 points, 10 rebounds and 4 blocks but it was truly a team performance from Israel which won the day.