Czech Republic soar over Israel, claim last ticket to Berlin
PRAGUE (Czech Republic) - Czech Republic had an amazing first half, but Israel all but erased a 19-point deficit in the third quarter to set up a thrilling finale. The group hosts went on a 13-0 fourth quarter that proved decisive, pushing them towards an 88-77 win that earned them a spot in the Round of 16.
The Czechs will be the fourth seed from Group D, meaning they are up against Giannis Antetokounmpo and Greece, the Group C winners, in the Round of 16. Israel ended their tournament with two wins and three defeats, finishing in fifth place in Prague.
Turning point: Deni Avdija was impressive all game long, picking up 10 assists already in the third quarter. When he opened up the fourth with his first three-pointer to cut the gap to 67-65, it seemed the whole momentum of the game was switching to the Israeli side.
But Tomas Satoransky thought otherwise. The captain and still-recovering-from-injury leader of the Czech team gave all he had, playing through pain to hit a big three-pointer and on the next possession he found Vojtech Hruban, who sunk another triple. Satoransky pulled all the strings in a 13-0 run that took the game out of Israel's reach in the closing minutes.
TCL Player of the Game: In front of 12,174 fans, Satoransky forgot he was injured for 32 minutes. He flirted with a triple-double in a masterful 14-point, 11-assist, 8-rebound display, and he added 2 steals for good measure. An honorable mention goes to Hruban for his 25 points off the bench, on 5-of-6 shooting from beyond the arc.
Stats don't lie: Czech Republic knocked down 7-of-10 three-pointers in the first half, creating a 19-point lead at one point, and they finished the game shooting 13-of-23 from distance, way too much for Israel's 9-of-30.
Bottom line: Czech Republic had a superhero in this game, there's no other way to describe Satoransky's effort to get himself fit enough to play through injury in Prague and then pull something like this off.
Israel played their hearts out, but the defense was not working in this one. But the future is bright, Deni Avdija had 12 points, 11 assists and 8 rebounds, Yam Madar finished with 16 points and 5 assists. Those are the two youngest guys on the team.
"I don't think I've ever played a game in front of a crowd like this. We usually play away games with atmosphere like this, to have a game like this and atmosphere like this with our Czech fans... I'm really looking forward to re-watching this game at home, and enjoy it with a drink once more. It's gonna stay with me for the rest of my life, obviously. It's a treat for us. We didn't have the easy route to the last 16, and now we get to play one of the best players in the world. We will enjoy it, it's gonna be something extra for us. If it's goodbye for us against Giannis, we'll take it." - Vojtech Hruban, Czech Republic
"Mixed feelings, obviously. Happy to get the win and qualify for Berlin, this was probably our best game we played. We imagined we'd be in better spots, but advancing is advancing in front of this crowd. I'm superexcited for the fans, they came here every game, they supported us, we said it's gonna be very important for us to show them the satisfaction we had. I'm glad that we can build on that." - Tomas Satoransky, Czech Republic
"I'm happy that we showed our lion heart and won the game. It's no secret that we had injuries and problems before EuroBasket, but we know how to overcome this, come to this game and go all-in. I am really happy for Czech basketball that we advanced from the group. In the past, we did some miracles. Let's see." - Czech Republic coach Ronen Ginzburg
"We are disappointed, of course. Sad, also, this is not how we wanted to finish this week, but this is basketball. We made some mistakes and we paid for them, unfortunately, we're not going to the next round." - Gal Mekel, Israel
"We started the tournament with two wins, and came to the game against Poland knowing that we would qualify with a win. We didn't succeed in that. Last game, crucial game against Czech Republic at home, we didn't play good defense, especially in the first half. If we played the second half defense in the first half, we would've won the game." - Israel coach Guy Goodes