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Down to the wire- Richard Howell: “I feel like this is a championship team with a championship atmosphere”

Dov Halickman Photography

As the Israel Basketball League heads into the final Gameday on Monday, hoops fans across the country have enjoyed a banner season with lots of great moments and plenty of drama. Just last night we saw clutch shooting, double-doubles, a team that fielded just two Israeli players who played the entire game along with the last place team winning their second straight game, this time knocking off the number one team in the league. It doesn’t get better than this!

Take 5:

1) Richard Howell is quietly fitting into the Hapoel Jerusalem lineup very nicely after coming over from Hapoel Tel Aviv less than a month ago. The naturalized Israeli center has been adjusting to life in Israel’s capital and has been putting quality numbers including a a double double with 12 points and 11 rebounds in 24 minutes of action against Maccabi Haifa. Howell spoke to the Sports Rabbi about his play as he looked ahead to the balance of the season and the upcoming playoffs:

Double Double, great game:
“It was a tough game. Haifa played physical and very scrappy, their guards play like big men and very physical against me. It was a hard fought game but I’m glad we came out on top.”

Thoughts about joining Hapoel just a few weeks ago:
“I love it. I feel like this is a championship team with a championship atmosphere. We come to work and practice everyday, I like the environment and I like the way the coaches treat me. I feel like this is going to be a good year. I am excited for the future as well.”

Next match against Kiryat Gat: 
“Especially at this time you can take anything lightly, we just saw the end of the Maccabi game (where Jason Sigger scored a last second 3-pointer to win the game for Gilboa/Galil). They have nothing to lose and you can’t take anything lightly”


2) Jason Siggers and Hapoel Gilboa/Galil have Maccabi Tel Aviv’s number after sweeping the 3-game season series against the Yellow & Blue with two of those wins coming at Yad Eliyahu. Quite incredible that this is the Maccabi Tel Aviv. With each game between the two being fairly close, Ariel Beit Halachmi’s team has been able to pull out the proverbial rabbit out of the hat yet again and take the victory home to the Galil. Andrew Goudelock made his return after a couple of months on the shelf and hit what looked to be the game winning 3-pointer with 2.5 seconds remaining but Siggers came up big hoisting up a Hail Mary 3 after taking the inbounds pass upcourt. Maccabi Head Coach Ainars Bagatskis said that his team celebrated Goudelock’s three too early and that may have been the case, but with the bad luck and poor play Maccabi has had all season long this was yet another moment in a season that they would all like to forget.


3) Kiryat Gat travelled south to Hapoel Eilat with everyone already handing the first place southern team the win. However, that was not to be as the visitors picked up their second win in a row over the course of four days after surprising Bnei Herzliya earlier in the week. It’s clear that Kiryat Gat has come to play right until the end and Hapoel Jerusalem will have to be careful on Monday as they have a chance to wrap up home court for the quarterfinals on the road. Alex Rosenberg has been one of the key players for Kiryat Gat as the American-Israeli is making his mark with a number of fine performances. Add to the mix Josh Selby and Justin Carter the last place team seems to finally be playing on all cylinders.


4) How about Bnei Herzliya and their Head Coach Mickey Gorka? With just two Israelis available due to injuries to Karam Mashour, Or Leumi and Tom Maayan, DJ Sharp and Yariv Amiram held their own scoring a combined 27 points helping their team to the win over Nahariya. As Gorka said, “Anything can happen” and he certainly correct especially after falling to Kiryat Gat earlier in the week. Is Bnei Herzliya a contender for the title? I’m not so sure without Mashour in the lineup as he’s been the best Israeli player this season and unfortunately is out hurt.


5) Is it too late for Hapoel Tel Aviv? Perhaps, but a win against Nahariya keeps their hopes alive until the final Gameday of the regular season. It will certainly be a difficult oath to make it into the playoffs as they need to defeat Maccabi Haifa by at least 21 points and Gilboa/Galil will need to lose, but who knows after watching plenty of games this last season, the impossible always seems to be possible. If not, there’s always next year.

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