Hapoel Holon moved into a first place tie with Maccabi Tel Aviv after defeating the Yellow & Blue 80-79 at Yad Eliyahu for the first time in 55 tries. James Bell had a monster game with 28 points while Darion Atkins picked up a double-double scoring 17 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. Victor Rudd led Maccabi with 23 points and 7 rebounds in the loss.
Joe Alexander helped Maccabi to their first six points of the game as the big man playing as a power forward was a force to be reckoned with early on helping the Yellow & Blue to a 22-20 lead after ten minutes of action. Bell dropped 8 points for the Dan Shamir led team to keep the contest close. The second quarter was all Bell as he added another seven points to his halftime total of 15 while Atkins finished off with 11 points after twenty minutes as the visitors ran out to a 43-36 lead.
Tu Holloway led the Holon charge in the 3rd quarter scoring 7 of his side’s 20 points as the game began to slip away from Maccabi with the advantage moving to 12 points, 63-51. However, Maccabi found their way back into the contest thanks to Rudd’s 11 4th quarter points in a 29 point frame, but his off balance last second shot couldn’t find the bottom of the basket as Holon hung on for the 1-point win, 80-79.
1) Maccabi Head Coach Ainars Bagatskis told the media following the game that he had a beat up squad at his disposal and Joe Alexander could only play 5 minutes a quarter. Number 23 started the game off extremely well especially since he was playing the 4 with Colton Iverson at the 5, but unfortunately that’s where it ended. After playing 10 minutes in the first half, he sat glued to the bench for the pretty much the full 3rd quarter when the game began slipping away and then played the 4th quarter. I’m not sure what was up with that, but I was pretty frustrated watching Maccabi’s game go down the tubes with Joe collecting splinters during “Money Time”. I asked him about it and he was frank: “Of course, I wanted to be on the floor, for them to build up the lead and their confidence it was very frustrating.” He also commented about his injury: “No, not injured just banged up. Tough 10 days. Professional Athletics is about playing when you feel great and when you don’t.”
2) James Bell has been terrific all year long and has been a player that Holon coach Dan Shamir has leaned all throughout the season. In front of family members Number 31 did what he needed to do to help his shorthanded team the victory. Over seen him numerous times this year and he’s been a pleasure to watch and a true and loyal soldier for his side. The Holon fans serenaded the players for an hour after the game, giving true love to their team. After finally beating Maccabi for the first time in 55 attempts at Yad Eliyahu this is what Belł had to say: “ll: I expected us to play hard, we prepare for everything. 55 games? It’s a lot of games! It feels great, but we got another one against a big team next week.”
3) Darion Atkins is amazingly only 24 years old after attending Virginia under coach Tony Bennett. He arrived in Israel after playing with the Westchester Knicks, a D-League team affiliated with the NBA’s NY Knicks and has looked like a seasoned professional from game one. Atkins is averaging 14.5 points per game to go along with 9.4 rebounds, he’s been a real star and one that I wonder just how long will be with Holon and in Israel in general. This guy is the real deal and a gamer to boot. After the contest he spoke about the win and the team itself: “We played hard, together, and that’s why we are so successful. We made some mistakes and ups and downs but that’s what it is, we win. I knew we were going to win, you have to believe you will win. We can’t take any team lightly, everyone is fighting to do well. It’s a great organization and I’m thankful for the coaches and for everyone.”
I mentioned this earlier but Bagatskis spoke about the short roster he had at his disposal. Yogev Ohayon was out after the half and in essence Maccabi was playing with one true point guard in Gal Mekel. The Latvian also said that Rudd was playing a combo guard at certain points due to the lack of a ball handler. DJ Seely is out, Andre Goudelock is recovering from surgery and now Ohayon is gone leaving Mekel as the sole survivor. The coach talked about the unenviable situation: “After the cup I was really safe with the guard position, but now we have no guards. Nobody knows how long they will be out, we need some players who can play with the ball. Victor is playing out of position, we need players that can give us more energy.” It sounded like the Yellow & Blue coach was desperate and when you look down the roster you can see why.