Israel captured the gold medal in the men's basketball competition of the 17th Maccabiah with a convincing 89-67 victory over France.
Israel was in total command throughout the contest, which emphasized its depth and dominance. The Israeli team composed of talented second-stringers from premier league clubs, was clearly more athletic, experienced and skillful than the opposition.
The victor's main weapon yesterday evening was Maccabi Tel Aviv reserve Assaf Dotan. Dotan jump-started the Israeli attack with eight quick points in the first quarter, helping it to a 28-10 advantage, which it never relinquished.
The contest took place in Ra'anana's Metro-West Arena and home-town favorite Guy Pnini of Bnei-Hasharon added 12 points and was named tournament MVP.
France made it to the finals by virtue of a 1-point victory over the American squad in the early rounds and a win over Australia two days ago in the semifinals.
The French team was bolstered by the presence of four Israelis, most notably Guy Zeno and Andrei Zelebaba.
The Americans, hampered by the absence of top college stars Jordan Farmar and Dan Grunfeld, who didn't make the trip, only managed to capture a bronze medal after Israel overcame an early 15-point deficit and captured its semifinal match-up 87-82.
Veteran Israeli coach, Yoram Harush, commented: "The level of competition this year was reasonable, but it was a big disappointment that the U.S. didn't get into the finals. The Americans were much more talented than the French team, and certainly would have given Israel a much tougher game."
Israel faced slightly more resilient opposition in the masters game where former Maccabi Tel Aviv great Aulcie Perry made a cameo appearance on the U.S. bench. Israel's old-timers won the warm up to the main bill by four points, 73-69.
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