Great Britain were eliminated from the 2019 World Cup First qualifying round after their 59-67 loss to Israel in the Emirates Arena in Glasgow on Monday evening.
Great Britain entered the clash knowing that a win would guarantee their safe passage into the second round of qualification, whilst Israel was all but assured of making it through following Estonia’s 22 point loss to Greece earlier in the day.
Great Britain started the contest slowly and struggled with the refs as much as the opposition as they found themselves in the penalty in under five minutes of the opening quarter. Dan Clark got the lion’s share of GB’s points with the versatile big man bagging six in the opening period. Clark would once again lead his team in scoring with 19 points and seven rebounds in the contest.
Israel found their way to the line far too often in the first half and through the play of Guy Merkel was able to get to the basket with ease. GB, on the other hand, prefered to build their play around the perimeter and were forced into shooting from outside, with the majority of their early game points coming from outside the painted area. Great Britain’s outside shooting was a deciding factor in the tie as they misfired from three, ending the contest with 29% shooting as a team, making 6 of 21 attempts.
Justin Robinson was GB’s star player of the second quarter with his drives to the basket being rewarded with points as the hosts headed into the half trailing by just one point at 33-34.
Israel had the better of things in the second half with GB misfiring from the line coming up empty on numerous trips up court whilst Israel was able to get the hoop frequently.
Israel entered the final term with 5 point advantage, thanks to their superior finishing and shot selection in the third quarter.
A pattern of play had been established with Gal Mekel gliding through the paint like a hot knife through particularly soft butter, punishing some poor interior defending from the hosts.
Alberto Lorenzo’s men were gifted a lifeline in the final few minutes when the dangerman Mekel picked up his fourth personal foul. Okereafor made one of two from the line and Clark drained a deep three to pull GB to within two points, giving GB hope of making the next round.
Howell Jr briefly restored the four point margin but Clark showed that he’s more than a three point shooter with a perfect spin move on Howell and flushed it home with the two handed man jam to give the hosts hope with two minutes to play. It would be as good as it got for Great Britain.
Each time GB got within touching distance of the lead their decision making deserted them and they forced up bad shots early in the shot clock, two from range and one from inside. Gal Mekel punished GB once again with two made free throws to make it a two possession ball game with 80 seconds to go.
Out of the timeout Robinson drove at Howell Jr and was fouled sending the Lions guard to the line and the dangerous Israeli to the bench on four fouls. Robinson, automatic from the line for the Lions went one for two bringing the score to three points with a minute to go, but Gal Mekel ended GB’s World Cup dream with a gorgeous long two pointer in Dan Clark’s face.
Out of the timeout with under a minute remaining Okoreafor and Clark set a play in which Okoreafor threw up a three under immense pressure, Rafael Menco’s went straight up the other end and made a three of his own to end the game.
Israel move on to the next round of qualification for China 2019, whilst Great Britain will wonder what might have been had a few lucky bounces had gone their way throughout the campaign.