Basketball / Women's EuroBasket / Blown lead could cost Israel place in European finals
Israel blew an eight-point lead with seven minutes remaining against Ukraine, falling to the hosts 71-68 and losing virtually any prospect of advancing to the finals.
The women's national hoopsters repeated the same fiasco of 2008, when they blew an identical lead and lost in overtime in Ukraine 90-85. The difference is that game came in the second round and only prevented Israel from grabbing first place. This time, the loss constituted Israel's third consecutive defeat and leaves only a theoretical chance of advancing from Group A. Israel is now in fourth place out of five teams after five games.
Israel got off to a sluggish start and trailed early 20-10 before taking control of the game. Shay Doron had an outstanding first half, Jennifer Fleischer was able to score in the paint, and Noa Ganor had her best game of the tournament, guarding closely and executing steals. Shiran Zairy's basket at the end of the second quarter gave Israel its highest first-half point total of this year's EuroBasket and a 43-37 lead going into the break.
Israel kept Ukraine off balance in the third quarter by switching its defense and upped the lead to 10. Ukraine made a mini-comeback but Israel still held a 63-55 lead three minutes into the fourth quarter before falling apart. With three consecutive turnovers, by the 3:15 mark Ukraine had completed a 10-2 run to tie the game at 65-all.
Ukraine didn't stop there, reeling off another five points before Liron Cohen buried a three-pointer with two minutes to go to close the gap to 70-68. Israel tightened its defense, got the ball back, and Doron drew a foul with 38 ticks left. However, she missed both free throws. Israel fouled and Ukraine only made one free throw, but Doron, who finished with 23 points, missed a chance to tie the game at the buzzer.Tired legs, poor decision making
"Shay was supposed to create an advantage, but they were well-organized on defense and forced her to take a tough shot," said Israel coach Eli Rabi after the game. "We started the game really poorly. We got back very well and built a promising lead, but the last five minutes were about exhaustion, poor decisions and weird fouls. They hit their three and won the game. I love how the women played and am proud of them."
The only way for Israel to advance at this point is to win its final three games against Belarus at home, Hungary on the road and Portugal at home, and hope that Ukraine loses in Belarus and wins in Hungary.