Near Sensation
Orli Klinger, Latvia ,06/07/2009
A truly great performance by Israel's women's national team ended in a painfully narrow loss to the 2007 bronze medalists, 76 – 81. Israel led by 8 after a wonderful first half, but gave in eventually to Belarus' posts' offensive rebounds. There are probably some positives to be taken from it, but this game should've been ours.

Belarus 81 – Israel 76

On the opening day of EuroBasket 2009 in Latvia, Israel really couldn't have hoped for a better first half than the display against Belarus. The half ended in a 38 – 30 Israeli lead, leaving us unsure if we should be happier with the 38 scored or the 30 allowed. Israel played great team defense and looked focused and energized on both ends. Israel created more points in the paint than the taller Belarus team, won the battle on the boards and led by 8 knowing it missed a few chances to increase the gap. Like Liron Cohen's six turnovers, something we haven’t seen from her since high school. In the 2nd half 12 Belarus offensive rebounds didn’t leave Israel much of a chance.

Team defense was the key for Israel early on. On the other end Katia Levisky scored on a put back and a jumper and along with Shay Doron's eight points carried Israel to a 15 – 7 lead in under five minutes, timeout Belarus. Israel had some unforced turnovers and entered a three minute drought, with Doron on the bench. Eli Rabi kept making subs and kept a fresh defender on Marchanka, Belarus' playmaker, but they still cut it to 13 – 15 with points by Kress. Liad Suez Karni stopped the run from the baseline and along with Doron's drive Israel went up 21 – 15. Tatyana Troina cut it to 17 – 21 in the final seconds of the 1st.

Cohen's 5th turnover and Troina's three cut it to 20 – 21 as Israel got stuck on offense, but the defensive energy remained high. Belarus tied it with a three before Israel made another run. Levisky was excellent on both ends and she hit a transition three to make it 31 – 25. Suez Karni drew Israel's 2nd charge of the day and Cohen hit from the line. Doron reached 14 points on another drive and Suez Karni sealed the half with a layup, 38 – 30.

Katia Levisky and Liad Suez Karni hit threes to open Israel's biggest lead, 44 – 34, three minutes into the 3rd. Cohen's 7th turnover turned into a collision which resulted in a questionable flagrant foul call, and a 9 – 0 Belarus run in what felt like a single possession. The lead was quickly gone as Belarus grabbed some offensive boards and hit a three, 43 – 44, time out Israel with 5 to play in the quarter. Troina completed the comeback with a layup that beat the shot clock buzzer, 45 – 44, first Belarus lead of the game. Israel ended a 4 minute drought with a Doron fast break layup but still looked stuck in the set game. On the other end the threes began to fall and after Yelena Leuchanka's first field goal of the day, Belarus led 52 – 48 after three.

The offensive rebound troubles continued in the 4th quarter and that was the one thing Israel could not afford. Doron scored off Levisky's assist and Cohen scored five to tie it at 57 with 6:30 left, but Belarus scored off 2nd chance and from deep, 62 – 57. Levitsky's three cut it to two and she added a steal, but then threw the ball in the stands. Belarus made a three point play and hit a three to make it 68 – 61 with 3:20 left, and Israel had to chase them the rest of the way. Belarus broke the Israeli defense down for their easiest three baskets of the game, and Israel could just trade baskets. A huge three and a mean block by Levitsky with a minute left gave Israel a final shot, but Cohen missed a quick three and Troina made a huge three, 77 – 70, 37 seconds to play. Belarus didn't miss its free throws and Cohen's drives weren't enough.

For Israel:
Shay Doron 26 pts
Katia Levitsky 19 pts, 12 rebs, 3 ast
Liron Cohen 17 pts, 7 TOs, 4 ast
Liad Suez Karni 7 pts
Katia Abramzon 4 pts
Merav Dori 2 pts
Laine Selwyn 1 pt, 4 ast

Tatyana Troina led Belarus with 16 points

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