Italy Edge Israel, Secure Semis

11.07.2007

Co-hosts Italy nearly suffered a massive collapse but held on to beat Israel 66-62 and move onto the semi-finals of the U20 European Championship Men.

Israel cut a 14-point fourth quarter deficit to three points before Italy prevailed to move to 4-0 in Group F, advancing to the medal round along with Spain.

Spain and Italy will face off on Thursday for the top billing in the group.

Alessandro Piazza led Italy with 12 points while Giovanni Tomassini and Alberto Chiumenti each scored 11 for Pino Sacripanti's team.

Yogev Ohayon scored 17 for Israel, who dropped to 2-2 with the loss, while Daniel Gur Arie had 14 points and Elishay Kadir chipped in 10.

Israel's star Omri Casspi scored 11 points and grabbed five rebounds and three steals, but he also committed eight of Israel's 21 turnovers.

Israel opened the game strong, especially Casspi, who scored eight points as Israel led 17-8 after one period.

Yakov Ginov's team were ahead 22-15 before Italy went on a 13-0 run, spurred by consecutive three-pointers by Tomassini, Piazza and Marco Ammannato. And Chiumenti drained a three-quarter court bomb at the buzzer to send the Italians into the locker-room with a 37-29 lead.

Ohayon scored nine points for Israel in the third quarter but Italy remained ahead 50-47 after three periods, helped greatly by a three-pointer and a three-point play by Piazza.

Chiumenti buried two treys as Italy started the fourth on a 11-0 run for a 61-47 lead.

But the Italian offence fell apart, committing four turnovers in watching Israel come back with a 10-0 spurt of their own for a 61-57 scoreline with 1:22 left.

Back-up Israeli point guard Dori Assaf missed two foul shots with 57 seconds to play and Kadir's inside basket cut the deficit to 62-59.

But Ohayon missed a running jump shot with 14 seconds left and Italy led 65-59 when Guy Mekel went to the free throw line with 6.4 seconds left.

Mekel made the first foul shot and missed the second on purpose, which Gur Arie rebounded and put back for a three-point game.

But Tomassini secured the victory with one foul shot with 1.4 seconds remaining.
Israel will have to get over this big disappointment and face Bulgaria on Thursday.

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