Israel and Turkey claimed their second victories, alongside an opening win for Spain, on the second day of the Men’s U23 European Championship taking place in Lignano Sabbiadoro.

Spain stormed to a confident win, 95-32, in their opening match against Poland. One of the favourites to win the tournament, the experienced Spanish team controlled the game right from the start winning all four quarters: 23-10, 27-3, 24-8, and 21-11. The extended defensive pressure Spain put on Poland was evident as they struggled to convert shooting at just 22% compared to Spain’s 52%.

Spain finished with three players in double figures: Manuel Lorenzo (33 points), Ignacio Ortega (26 points), and Alejandro Garcia (21 points).

Spain’s Lorenzo said:

“We are very happy with the work we have done. We have trained a lot for this moment and to be where we are now. Very happy with the team and we deserved the victory. This year we are a lot better prepared so we are very satisfied for now.”

The second game of the day saw Turkey go 2-0 with a hard-fought, 62-53, victory over France. The game was even throughout the opening quarter with only one point between the two teams, 12-11. In the second, Turkey opened up the gap to 8 points but couldn’t shake the tenacious French team who brought it back to four points, 26-22, at half-time. France’s revival continued into the third, winning the quarter 21-14 to take a 3-point advantage into the fourth. A 10-0 run put Turkey up by 7 with seven minutes to play, but France rallied again and pulled it back to within 3. Turkey’s Mahmut Açıkgöz sealed the win hitting two back-to-back threes and a driving lay-up with 1 minute remaining to put the game out of France’s reach.

Açikgöz top scored for the second time in the tournament with 28 points, whilst Manuel Gomez shot 20 points to lead the scoring for France.

Israel finished the day off by claiming their second win of the tournament, this time over hosts Italy, 62-25. A slow start saw a low-scoring opening quarter for both teams, as it finished 10-8 to Israel. It wasn’t until halfway through the second quarter that Israel found some momentum and confidence led by talisman Amit Vigoda who made three threes in a row to push Israel’s lead out to 35-14 at the half-time break.

Italy continued to struggle to find their shooting touch in the third scoring only 4 points to Israel’s 18. The final quarter was low scoring which Israel won 9-7 and claimed their second victory of the Championship.

Israel head coach, Lior Dror, rotated all his players into the game which ensured a spread of scoring across the team, although Vigoda, following his first-half performance, finished top scorer with 17 points.

Vigoda said:

“I’m happy with my performance but I am more happy with the team performance. We fought hard and got another win and that’s the most important part; my performance helps the team win and that’s all that’s important.”

The final day of the preliminary rounds will take place tomorrow (Wednesday 16 June) which will finalise standings of the group stages. Israel and Turkey will battle for the top spot in Group A, as will Germany and Spain in Group B, and in the other game of the day, France face Italy both looking for their first win of the tournament.

The Championship, organised by IWBF Europe and FIPIC and being run under strict COVID-19 hygiene and safety protocols, is the European Zone’s Qualification Tournament for the Men’s U23 World Championship, which is scheduled to take place in Chiba, Japan next year. The top five countries will qualify.

Image courtesy of FIPC – Augusto Bizzi