By Yarone Arbel
Turning point: Israel fought hard in the first half to maintain their rebounding dominance, and time after time it seemed things would be ok, but mid way in the third quarter Jeremiah Massey and Pero Antic blasted the illusion. They fed each other, grabbed one offensive rebound after another and made the Israeli defense acknowledge things are about to be different in the second half.
Hero: Todor Gecevski combined big plays in the last quarter to make things happen for F.Y.R of Macedonia. A three pointer, a big block and assist for another three pointer gave his team their biggest lead of the night, 66-57
Stats: Just like yesterday Israel's main problem was in the rebounds, where they allowed their opponent to grab no less than 14 offensive boards, 12 of them in the last three quarters. F.Y.R of Macedonia used those rebounds to gather no less than 18 second chance points, and in such a close game it all made a difference.
History took place today in Poznan as F.Y.R of Macedonia wrote their first ever win in the final round of EuroBasket after an 82-79 victory over Israel.
With this win they climb to a 1-1 record, while Israel dropped to 0-2 before the closing day tomorrow.
In the first half the lead changed hands five times and the score was tied the same amount. When the buzzer sent the teams to the break F.Y.R of Macedonia held a 40-39 lead, but it was enough to hang on to.
Israel never took the lead back and chased after their opponent in the following 20 minutes.
Raviv Limonad's three ball with three seconds on the clock cut the margin to just a point, but it wasn't enough.
The Macedonians dominated the boards, especially in the second half and didn't allow Israel to regain the lead, on their way to an historical win.
The disappointment on the Israeli side was immense as captain Tal Burstein said: "If we didn't beat the Macedonians, we don't deserve to be in the next round."
14 offensive rebounds by F.Y.R of Macedonia translated to 18 second chance points that turned out to be decisive.
Israel's center Yaniv Green got injured in the 15th minute and other than a few minutes in the second half couldn't play anymore, which hurt Israel's chance to match the bigs at the other end.
Pero Antic led the way f
or the winning side with 19 points and six rebounds and Jeremiah Massey added 15 with six rebounds.
|Pero Antic led the way for F.Y.R. of Macedonia with 19 points.|
Tal Burstein was the leader of Israel with 25 points, Yotam Halperin added 20, ten of them in the first quarter and Lior Eliyahu finished with 12.
"It's a very important victory for us," said Coach Jovica Arsic.
"We knew if we lose today we have no chance to go on, so we gave everything we have to make it happen."
After one minute F.Y.R of Macedonia already collected three fouls, but soon after they already had three hits from downtown on the way to a 9-2 lead.
Eliyahu came in but it was Halperin who was on fire with ten points already after six minutes and after Burstein added an easy lay up the game was tied at 15-15.
Fans called in for Massey and Coach Jovica Arsic replied with the treat, but yet to had big influence on the game.
Center Amit Tamir scored the first long distance goal for Israel too make it 19-17 in favor of his team, right before the first quarter break,
Burstein had a great second quarter, on the way to 11 first half points, which he started with a catch-and-shoot three to bestow Israel a 26-23 lead.
The opponent's answer was fast and furious with seven points in a row capped with a massive alley-hoop dunk by Samardziski, to force Coach Zvi Sherf to take a time-out.
After maintaining the rebound for 15 minutes Israel's sickness reappeared as F.Y.R of Macedonia grabbed three offensive rebounds in a row to take a 34-28 lead.
Massey and Burstein exchanged three pointers, before the later added a big mid-range jumper and Halperin climbed to 14 points in the break, cutting on the gap to just a single point, 40-39.
Green had difficulties under the board against the Macedonians bigs but Eliyahu found the way to score four in a row and keep his team not too far behind.
Darko Sokolov and Riste Stefanov pushed their team to a 50-43 lead and Vrbica Stefanov had an open three to make it a ten point game, but he missed and Burstein finished the break at the other end to keep the score close.
Once again the paint was ruled by Antic and Massey who fed each other for easy baskets, grabbed offensive boards and maintained the safe lead.
Israel switched to zone and went with Burstein who nailed a huge three to keep his team in the picture, but Antic set the score on 60-55 before the teams entered the deciding quarter.
Gecevski came off the bench to make the difference. He scored from distance, added a monster block on a fast break Eliyahu and finished with a big dish for a three pointer by Vojdan Stojanoski to write the biggest lead for F.Y.R of Macedonia, 66-57 with eight minutes to play.
Ido Kozikaro scored four in a row with power moves, but left Gecevski open on the arc once again and was punished, 70-63.
It was now or never for Israel and Burstein was there to save the day. He nailed another big three, and Eliyahu finished a fast break cutting the margin to 72-70 with still a lot of time on the clock.
Gal Mekel missed a jumper and Vrbica Stefanov showed him how to make it done at the other side to set the score on 77-72 with 1:43 to play but it wasn't done yet.
Limonad, who scored seven points in the last 92 seconds, cut the margin down to one twice, but saw Sokolov march to the line with two seconds on the clock.
"When I went to the line I felt big pressure, because I knew the meaning of those shots," he confessed in the press conference following the game.
"I hope my nation will forgive me for missing one of those shots."
That shot didn't turn out to be crucial as Israel couldn't convert the last play and let the celebrations on the opponent's bench begin.