Day 4 saw Israel stage a fantastic comeback against Sweden to edge out their first win of the Championships by 68-66.
With palpable anticipation, the players from the Israel and Sweden Men’s Teams met for Game 29; vibrant and energised warm ups characterising the final on court warm-up preparations.
Tip off went Israel's way, followed up with quick hands on both sides leading to action at both ends of the court. In the end it was Sweden who created the first score of the game, but Israel’s Roei Rozenberg quickly replied to level the game on two points apiece. A fantastic three pointer from Sweden’s Husein Haidari edged the team ahead, but the pressure from both sides continued at a pace: like-for-like in vociferous defence, the teams dynamically competed for offence and each pass of the ball.
With less than five minutes remaining in the first quarter, a chance for Sweden to extend their score of 11-8 was nullified by strong play from Israel. Indeed, Israel hit back with four consecutive points to move ahead 12-11. The teams continued to trade baskets and, once again, Sweden found themselves up by a point with around 90 secs left on the clock. In the end, it was Israel who earned the final points of the quarter, but Sweden who held a 15-14 advantage at the close of the game’s first 10 minutes.
The second quarter was met with a further two pointer from Sweden, but again the follow up from Israel was swift. Raising their game, Sweden pushed on to a ten point lead (29-19) before Israel piled on the pressure once more – playing their way back to the game as Rozenberg sunk two from the line and Lior Dror made a great basket (27-31).
A timely time out called by Sweden in the last two minutes let both audience and players catch their breath; the teams returning to a Sweden ball. Despite Sweden’s robust defence, Israel found a way to score again to take their tally to 27; then yet another charge by Sweden saw the team advance their total once more: at the end of the first half Sweden were therefore out in front by 33-27.
A fantastic start at the beginning of the second half for Israel’s Igal Allon Dor Onn saw him close the team’s deficit down to 29-33. Israel’s momentum, however, was reeled in by successful shots on basket from the combination of Joakim Linden and Joakim Lindblom thanks to a free throw and more success in both baskets followed soon after. Indeed. scores were momentarily even just over three minutes into the third quarter (37-37).
Another basket from Rozenberg seemed to lift the team as Israel went ahead (40-39) only to be caught once again. The efforts to keep a pace with one another made for engaging spectating as scores were maintained to within a point as the two teams traded baskets through tantalising offensive and defensive plays. The one point game continued, the spell being temporarily broken by Israel's Asael Yona Shabo who sunk one from the line to edge his team by 51-49. Lindblom then responded with two free throws for Sweden to level the game on 51-51 with 27 seconds to go. It was, however, Israel with the final points of the quarter to take a 53-51 lead into the final 10 minutes.
The final quarter was as energised as the first: Israel seizing the first initiative and capitalising to advance their score (56-51). Sweden, however, then gained three points to keep the teams within close reach of one another. Indeed, there was very little to split the teams in terms of sheer volition and dedicated application of their skills, making for an enthralling last five minutes.
A four point lead for Israel ensued with 53 seconds remaining in the game (68-64); intercepted with a time out called by Sweden – Haidari putting the Sweden Men’s Team back within two points upon the teams’ return to court. That would prove to be the final basket of the game – Israel therefore taking the win by 68-66 with both teams having been masterful on court, providing ample entertainment for spectators throughout the entire game.
1. I. Dor Onn (29); 2. R. Rozenberg (12)*; 3. T. Sason (12)
*double double, points and assists
1. H. Haidari (19); 2. J. Linden (17); 3. J. Lindblom (16)
MVP, presented by Sport England: Igal Allon Dor Onn (Israel)