Israel Upset Favourites Latvia

16.09.2005

Israel may have been the last team to qualify for the EuroBasket tournament, but a 74-65 defeat of crowd-favourite Latvia in Group D's opening game showed they aren't here just to make up the numbers

The Israelis opened the game with an impressive shooting display led by Moshe Mizrahi, but when the shots started rattling out, Zvi Sherf's men did all the little things to secure a victory.

Playing in their visiting blue, the Israelis quickly built a ten point lead in the first quarter thanks to Mizrahi's streaky shooting and Meir Tapiro's smooth running of the offense.

But Latvia got back into the game and held a three-point lead, 41-38, at half-time.

Captain Roberts Stelmahers led the charge and was helped by some equally accurate shooting from beyond the arc by Kristaps Valters.

Israel lost their lead when captain Tal Burstein picked up his second personal foul in the first quarter and had to sit out until the start of the second half.

Dror Hagag drained a three-pointer to give Zvi Sherf's men an eight-point cushion at the end of the first quarter.

But the second quarter saw a reversal of fortunes as Latvia proved the more patient, better-organised side and their shots finally began to drop - as Israel's began to rattle out instead.

Latvia forced Israel into some bad shots and their ball movement at the other end of the court proved to be working as Martins Skirmans, Stelmahers and Kristaps Janicenoks all benefited from the extra pass to make knock down some open shots.

Israel's offense meanwhile was stalling and Hagag began forcing plays and paying the price as Latvia was now blocking the paint and double teaming every drive to the basket and also stepping into the passing lanes.

Both teams struggled to make a shot in the third quarter but Latvia's persistence to take every possible shot from beyond the three-point arc - and missing most of them (they shot 7/31 for the game) - gave Israel a chance to stay close in the game, before pulling away in the fourth quarter, when Gur Shelef provided some much needed offense.

Hagag hit some all the shots when they mattered, and finished the night leading a balanced Israeli offense with 18 points. Shelef added 15, Mizrahi finished with 12 and Yaniv Green chipped in with 11.

For Latvia, Stelmahers lead the way with 19 points, while Kristaps Janicenoks added 13, most of which came in the second half to keep his side in with a fighting chance. Kristaps Valter finished with 11.


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