Israel and Switzerland secured their places in the next Men’s European Championship Division A in two years’ time with wins over Austria and Russia, respectively.
In the 9-12 crossover games, more was at stake than just the final standings of this year’s 2019 Men’s European Championship and it was clear in the intensity of both games.
Opening the action on day 7, Switzerland defeated Russia by just seven points, 77-70, in an exhilarating game. Nothing could separate the two teams in the first 10 minutes, as it was all square, 21-21. The lead exchanged hands a number of times during the second, but it was Switzerland who edged it to take a three-point lead into half-time. The third belonged to Russia as they brought the game back to tie at 53-53, with all to play for the in final period.
At the beginning of the fourth the teams went basket for basket, until Switzerland managed to pull six points ahead with two minutes remaining. In an exciting finish, despite a three pointer from Russia’s Vasily Kochetkov, Switzerland ensured they held their nerve and finished off the game from the free-throw line.
Russia’s Vasily Kochetkov was the game’s top scorer with a double-double of 23 points and 15 rebounds. Duo Philipp Häfeli and Maurice Amacher both scored 20 points apiece for Switzerland with Nicolas Hausammann also adding 17 points.
The second of the 9-12 classification games saw a passionate game between Israel and Austria, both fighting for their right to stay in Division A.
A strong opening quarter for Israel saw them push out to an early 10-0 lead as Austria struggled to convert, scoring their first basket in the seventh minute of the game, as Israel took a 14-7 advantage in to the second. Austria kept the Israelis in sight during the second quarter, going in at half-time with the score 27-19 to Israel in a low scoring first half.
The Austrians brought it back to a four-point game midway through the third period as the Israeli team started to tighten up, but Israel’s Head Coach Ariel Ottolenghi returned to his starting line-up who steadied the ship and took the game back out to eleven points.
Austria did not let their heads drop in the fourth and won the final quarter 18-17, but it wasn’t enough and Israel secured the victory to retain their place in Division A, 55-45.
Israel’s Head Coach Ariel Ottolenghi said after the game:
“It was a very important win for our team. We wanted to stay in the highest level in Europe and we did it, we worked very hard for this game and I’m happy that we won it.
“We have two players 17 years old and then we have another two important players around 22, 23, so it’s a young team and they have to get a lot of experience I believe in the next years so that they will be much better and they will be in the first eight in the next tournament.
“We play Switzerland in the next game. They are a tough team, but I believe we will be much more relaxed and the game will be more fun, it won’t have the pressure of this game and I hope we will win it and finish the tournament with a big smile.”
Israel will now play Switzerland in a fight for 9th/10th position at 19:00, whilst Russia and Austria play-off in the 11th/12th game.
Austria and Russia will be relegated to play in European Championship Division B next year.
The 2019 Men’s European Championship acts as the wheelchair basketball zonal qualification tournament for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, with the semi-finalist teams claiming the four available spots.