|29 August 2012|
|Lior Eliyahu had 22 points, five rebounds and five blocks against Serbia to help Israel stay on the winning track |
Israel warned Serbia they'd be in a combative mood when the teams met at the Nokia Arena in Tel Aviv and so it proved as Arik Shivek's side claimed an 89-76 win on Tuesday.
The doom and gloom following the Israelis' 0-2 start has lifted, with the six-team Group A proving to be every bit as difficult as everyone expected when the draw for the EuroBasket Qualification Round was made.
Montenegro, who surprised Serbia with a shot from beyond half-court at the buzzer in Belgrade to win their encounter on 18 August, are alone at the top with five wins in as many games.
Following them are Israel, Serbia and Estonia (all 3-2), Iceland (1-4) and the Slovak Republic (0-5).
In Israel, there had been reports of disharmony in the changing room after the team's collapse at home to Estonia but the players have shown that isn't the case at all.
Everyone, including 24-year-old power forward Elishay Kadir, is both contributing and being supportive.
Kadir played 16 minutes on Tuesday and had five rebounds and two assists to go with four points.
"I am very happy with the confidence that Arik shows in me and every time he calls me, I'll be ready for this mission," he said.
As for the camaraderie in the squad, Kadir said: "You need to be with us in the locker room or dining room to see how much laughter there is and how much we all enjoy being together.
"I'm happy to see on the bench and the court that everyone supports and encourages each other."
Omri Casspi had 23 points, Lior Eliyahu contributed 22 and Yogev Ohayon 19.
"This is a good result for us and I hope we can continue this way against Montenegro," said Eliyahu.
Indeed, Montenegro are next up in Israel on Thursday - just 48 hours after Eliyahu and Co's clash with Serbia.
"This win puts our campaign back on track, but we can still lose a game and that would set us back."
The win has brought vindication to Israel, and a sense of relief.
"I'm so glad we won," Kadir said.
"The victory is very meaningful for us because now we are now more dependent on ourselves.
"Yet this week isn't over and is difficult and we have an important game not just tomorrow but one more game on Sunday (at Estonia). We know it continues to be a critical week for us."