Israeli high school basketball team wins world championship with buzzer beater
The dramatic victory adds to the rich history of hoops in the Mediterranean country.
There's very little you can do in under three seconds. You could change the TV channel, flush a toilet or click "Like" on a Facebook post. As it turns out, three seconds is also all it takes to become world champions. Actually, 2.5 seconds. But who's counting?
The boys basketball team from Tichon Hadash, a high school in Tel Aviv, was playing the team from Greece in front of a hometown crowd on the Greek island of Crete. Down by two points, the Israeli team inbounded the ball to its star player, Ariel Lachovitz. He caught the ball and quickly shot up a buzzer-beating three-pointer to defeat Greece 79-78.
"I have been training all my life for these moments in order to be able to do it under pressure," Lachovitz told us.
You can relive the game-winning moment here:
"It's unbelievable!" the announcer shouted. "An absolutely dramatic finish here!"
Amitai Rotem, a forward for the Tel Aviv team who scored another important three-pointer in the game's final minute, told From the Grapevine he's still getting over the shock. "The feeling is amazing," he said. "I am so happy for the win – we're all happy. And we're all proud to be world champions." The last time Israel won this tournament was 30 years ago in 1989.
Amit Sidon, who plays guard for the Israeli team, was emotional when we caught up with him. "We were not the tallest or the strongest and not the most athletic, but we brought the biggest heart and willpower to the field," he told us. "That was the secret to our success."
The world championship is an event sponsored by the International School Sport Federation. In total, 571 teenagers from 24 different countries participated – including from Belgium, Brazil, China, Denmark and New Zealand. The team from Finland won the girls championship.
Basketball continues to be one of the most popular sports in Israel. Its premiere professional team, Maccabi Tel Aviv, has won multiple gold medals at the Euroleague tournament. Perhaps the most famous time was in 1977 when the small upstart team from Israel defeated the mighty Russians on their way to securing the championship. The game, dubbed "The Miracle on Hardwood," was immortalized in a recent documentary and has taken on mythic qualities among fans. NBA Hall of Famer Bill Walton summed it up like this: "It is easily one of the greatest sporting accomplishments ever."
Former NBA players are also making Israel their home. Amar'e Stoudemire, a power forward who played for the New York Knicks and America's Olympic basketball team, is now a part owner of the Hapoel Jerusalem team. Tarik Black, formerly of the Los Angeles Lakers, plays for Maccabi Tel Aviv. "We used to always talk about vacations, and I would tell my wife that my No. 1 place in the world to go to was Israel," Black told From The Grapevine.
Some of the teenagers who won this year's tournament had some help from the NBA. In the summer of 2017, a delegation of NBA players and coaches came to Israel as part of the Basketball Without Borders program. They ran a four-day camp for top teenage basketball talent in the Mediterranean country. It seems that their guidance and advice has paid off.
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