Sweet 16
Orli Klinger ,08/30/2008
Israel's women's national team came to Lithuania's arena knowing a win against the 6th placed Liths would almost certainly guarantee a ticket to EuroBasket 2009.
Israel opened a 7 point lead by halftime and increased it all the way to 18 in the 4th. Five players scored in double figures in a wonderful team effort which led to a 3rd straight road win, and a sweep against Lithuania. The 76 – 60 win showed that the 16 point home win was no fluke.
Liron Cohen: "We made a very big and very significant step towards making EuroBasket".

Full report and quotes – inside!

Lithuania 60 – Israel 76

Israel led from about the 17th minute and all the way to the end, and controlled the 2nd half en route to an amazing 76 - 60 win at Lithuania, who finished 6th in last year's EuroBasket. Lithuania opened the qualification tournament with a 47 – 63 loss in Israel and hasn't lost since. Israel and Lithuania are in a fight with the Ukraine for the two top spots in the bracket, and Israel's victory is of course a very big step in the right direction. Assuming there won't be a slip up at home against Germany and Great Britain, Israel is EuroBasket bound.

"I think we played great, we held them to 60 points, we took them out of their game plan and out of focus", said Liron Cohen after the game. "I think we were able to control the tempo of the game very well. I don't like getting to happy but we made a very big and very significant step towards the goal we set for ourselves which is making EuroBasket 2009. Now we'll go back home after a tough week, and on Tuesday there's another game. If we win that we'll be really close to the end. I hope the fans pack the stands like in the first two games", she summed up.

"It was a very physical and tough game but we took care of business. I'm very exhausted right now but I'm very proud of the girls. We did some nice things together but we talked about it at the end that we can only celebrate tonight, and that's it", said team Capitan Liad Suez Karni. "It was a very good game, everyone gave all they had and then some. They played very tough defense, but our defense was the story at the end. The steals, fast breaks, and winning the battle on the boards says it all. The posts tipped balls out, the guards were very active on the glass, we boxed out hard, what else can you say, big win. Eli [Rabi] defined it as a cup finals and that's what it was", she added. "But we have a game on Tuesday too and we don’t want to fall in the games that on paper we should take. Germany will come out fighting and we have to gather our energy, recover and come out with full force".

"I think mentally we were very prepared, we came to win and we didn’t pay much attention to the opponent or the fact we're on the road", said coach Eli Rabi. "I'm glad the message got through, the girls put in some heroic performances. Lithuania kind of counted us out, they were sure their loss in Israel was an accident. We won the battle of the rebounds and that explains the type of energy the girls expended. That's the whole story". The situation now is that even if Lithuania doesn’t lose another game, Israel only needs to win its remaining home games to secure a ticket to Latvia 2009. "My job is to prevent complacency, there are no easy wins and I've said that in day 1. We need to work hard and hope for the best".

Israel started out poorly with four turnovers and saw Lithuania go up 9 – 2 in three minutes. Israel was able to come back despite 0/4 from the line as Laine Selwyn led the way with five points in a 9 -1 run to put Israel up 11 – 10. Following a timeout Israel and Lithuania exchanged baskets, as Israel continued to surprisingly dominate the offensive boards with 7 in the quarter. Liron Cohen's third assist found Katia Abramzon for three and she added a layup as well to give Israel a 20 – 17 lead after one.

In the 2nd quarter Suez scored inside and Cohen stole the ball and raced for a layup to make it 24 – 19. Lithuania's zone threw Israel's offense off balance a little, and they made some three point plays accompanied by offensive reounds to take a 27 – 26 lead. Shay Doron got Israel back in it with seven straight points, 31 – 30 with three to go in the half. Israel stepped up their energy on defense and forced five turnovers until the end of the half. Doron scored again and Jennifer Fleischer added four to make it 39 -32 at the half, despite a horrendous 3/10 performance from the free throw line.

Israel caught fire from downtown in the 3rd, played smart defense which kept the ball out of the paint and began to break the game open. Suez with a three and an assist to Cohen for three made it 53 – 40. Cohen added another three as did Abramzon, 59 – 43, 16 point lead with 3:30 to go in the 3rd. A few subs broke the offensive flow a little but the defense made sure the lead remained healthy, 61 – 47.

Nomi Kolodny with great hustle and a fast break layup helped open the game's biggest lead, 65 – 47 a minute into the 4th. Lithuania didn’t give up and was able to come back a little bit with a 9 – 2 run to cut it to 67 – 56 with five minutes to play. Eli Rabi put the starters back in, Doron broke the drought with four free throws and Suez Karni added a steal and dish to Selwyn to make it a 16 point game. With 2:30 to go, it was time to celebrate.
For Israel:
Shay Doron 19 pts, 4 rebs
Liron Cohen 12 pts, 7 ast
Laine Selwyn 12 pts, 4 rebs, 4 ast, 4 stl
Jennifer Fliecsher 11 pts, 6 rebs
Liad Suez Karni 8 pts, 3 ast
Nomi Kolodny 2 pts

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