Playing to avoid last spot in Group B, a highly spirited Israel overcame Bulgaria in a hard fought and at times tense game by a 74-63 final.
Raviv Pitshon and Anton Shoutvin had great games for the victors.
Both had double-doubles, Pitshon scoring 26 points and taking 11 rebounds, Shoutvin with 18 points and 14 boards.
Bulgaria’s star duo of Hristo Zahariev and Bozhidar Avramov were kept relatively quiet, notching 19 and 10 points respectively.
|Raviv Pitshon was the leader for Israel with 26 points and 11 rebounds.|
“Our plan was to stop Avramov and Zahariev and to stop the fast breaks, and I think we did it well” explained Israel coach Ran Asher.
“I think we deserved it because we gave good fight against Greece and Turkey and we didn’t win”.
It was a far from simple victory for Asher’s side, as in a tight first quarter the lead changed hands on six occasions with Israel, again playing their high energy game, battling hard against their bigger, more physical opponents.
Israel took charge in the second quarter, with Pitshon pulling down 4 rebounds and scoring 12 points in that period alone as his side went on a 11-0 run to end the half in front 33-29.
That lead had extended to 10 points by the end of the third, with Pitshon and now Shoutvin shining in a number of smart moves and fast breaks.
With so much at stake Bulgaria weren’t beaten yet, and they brought the game to within two points with 6:30 remaining when Aleksandar Georgiev stole the ball away before laying it up and in.
It was a comeback that Bulgaria couldn’t continue, and Israel fought hard again to run up the final 74-63 lead.
“We had added motivation for this win” Asher told us.
“I’m not the head coach of this team, he is Mr. Yoram Kufman. He has had to stay in Israel and I really want to say thank you to him” he said after the game.
“He has prepared tough boys with good tactics and good game. I’ve just taken the fruits of his work and I’m really very grateful to him”.
In the other game in Group B Greece beat Turkey 82-67 in a surprisingly unbalanced affair
to close the group in pole position.
|Dogus Balbay led Turkey in their losing effort with 22 points and nine rebounds. |
Konstantinos Koufos had another excellent game with 25 points and 15 rebounds, as did Nikolaos Pappas with 16 points.
For Turkey Dogus Balbay and Can Özcan again scored well with 22 and 17 points respectively, but left it too late to make any difference to the score.
Greece started brightly to get their noses in front early on before ending the quarter strongly 15-0 to build a 29-14 advantage which they continued to add to in the second.
Nikos Keramefs’ men controlled the Turkish play by pressing hard in defence forcing Turkey to shoot from further out, from where yesterday’s big range shooters Can Özcan, Birkan Batuk and Melih Mahmutoglu couldn’t convert their chances.
Greece on the other hand were clinical with their shooting inside the arc, converting 82.6% of their 23 two-point shots.
In the second half Turkey’s long range men finally arrived, as Balbay continued to score well.
But it was too little too late, and by now Koufos was running the show with 16 second half points to maintain the gap between the sides, and relegate Turkey to second place in the group.