Friendship Games – Tuesday Highlights

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Friendship Games – Tuesday Highlights
Jul 5, 2017

By Alex Flum, Monica McNutt and Hannah Yasharoff

Eilat, Israel— Three critical games Tuesday set up Wednesday’s men’s and women’s finals in the 12th annual Friendship Games basketball tournament.

Picture by Hannah Yasharoff

Men’s Semifinal #1: Lithuania 54, Poland 45

In the first of two men’s semifinals, three-time defending champion Lithuania held off a strong comeback to defeat Poland, 54-45.

Poland overcame a seven-point halftime deficit to start the fourth quarter tied at 38.

Lithuanian forward Ignas Labutis, however, nailed back-to-back threes in the final three minutes to help seal the victory. Labutis led all scorers with 17 points.

“We just focused on defense more [in the fourth], made more good passes and got into the rhythm of the game,” Labutis said. “We had more power than them; they have just five, we have seven players.”

Men’s Semifinal #2: Israeli Jewish Team 68, Ukraine 58

Standout forward Sagiv David led three players in double-figures with 19 points as the Israeli Jewish team defeated Ukraine, 68-58,in the day’s second men’s semifinal.

After spotting Ukraine an early lead, Israel took control when it went to full-court pressure in the second quarter. David was effective scoring both from the perimeter and in the paint.

“We played together,” David said. “We shared the ball, we played aggressive defense, like always, we get to know each other better every game, we think it’s great.”

Guard Ilya Shemosyuk led Ukraine with 19 points.

Women’s Semifinal: Israeli Jewish Team 45, Russia 30

Few players in the Friendship Games carry the credentials of Nofar Shalom, a forward on the Israeli Jewish team. Now, she will have a chance to add a championship to her portfolio.

Shalom led Israel with 12 points in a 45-30 victory over Russia, earning a matchup with Lithuania, which finished first in round-robin play earlier in the tournament.

Shalom is “the best player in the tournament, without any doubt,” according to her coach, Amir Kahana. Shalom plays professionally in Israel and has also seen time with Israel’s national team.

Leading 20-13 at the half, Israel really pulled away in the third quarter, highlighted by guard Michal Gilat, who, at 5-2, is the shortest player at the Friendship Games. Gilat scored all 10 of her points in the third.

“She’s such a complete player,” Kahana said. “Any coach would want a player like this on their team. She proves that it doesn’t matter how tall you are, it matters are how big your heart is.”

With the title awaiting, Kahana is all smiles.

“I’m very proud of the girls, we prepared really good for this game and we knew exactly what we wanted to do,” Kahana said. “We really executed in an amazing way and I’m very happy.”

Russia forward Tatiana Kazakova led all scorers with 20 points.

Wednesday:

Entering the final day of the tournament, the question buzzing throughout the Friendship Games is: Can anyone beat Lithuania?

On Wednesday, both Israeli Jewish teams will have the chance to do just that and win this year’s Friendship Games. Each Lithuanian team is vying to win its fourth consecutive title.

“We will focus together, play like a team and win like a team,” Labutis said.

While confidence is present on the Lithuanian side, both Israeli teams are hoping to flip the script this year.

 The Israeli Jewish women’s team lost in last year’s final, and, 36-28, to Lithuania on Saturday.

“We’re a lot better this year,” Kahana said. “We had two games [Monday] and we’re not an NBA team so I don’t know how the women will respond to this but I think with all the adrenaline now, for sure we come here to take the trophy.”

After losing its 2017 tournament opener to Lithuania, 57-50, the Israeli Jewish men’s team thinks it is a different team after this week’s games.

“I think we are better now, we played together three more games,” David said. “I think we can do it.”

Score Roundup:

Men’s Bracket:

Lithuania 54, Poland 45

ASA Israel 68, Ukraine 58

Jordan 57, Fureidis Israel 52

Eilat 49, Palestine 38

Women’s Bracket:

ASA Israel 54, Yafia Israel 31

Lithuania 59, Jordan 27

ASA Israel 45, Russia 30

Podcast:

In our second podcast, we explore the highlights of the athletes’ group trip to Jerusalem and how one Friendship Games participant’s views have been shaped by living all over the world.

Feature of the Day:

European basketball players at the 12th annual Friendship Games in Eilat, Israel, dish out their NBA hot takes on who’s the best, what they think of LaVar Ball and more.

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The event’s organizers sponsored student coverage of the Friendship Games. Editorial control of the coverage and content remained with the Shirley Povich Center for Sports Journalism and the Philip Merrill College of Journalism.

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