Hapoel Holon captured the 2018 Israel State Cup by defeating Maccabi Tel Aviv at Yad Eliyahu 86-84. Glen Rice Jr. dropped the wining shot with one second left on the clock and won MVP honors by scoring 28 points, pulling down 8 rebounds and dishing out 7 assists in a dominant performance for Dan Shamir’s squad. Holon’s win ended Maccabi’s streak of 8 State Cups in a row and leaves Yellow & Blue coach Neven Spahija empty handed for the second time in his career in the tournament after being knocked out in the 2006/07 campaign by Bnei HaSharon. This is Shamir’s third Cup, wining back to back titles in 2007 and 2008 when he guided Hapoel Jerusalem to the crown.
Holon ran out to an early 18-10 lead midway in the first quarter thanks to sharp shooting by Tu Holloway, but Maccabi cut the advantage to only 3 points, 25-22 by the end of the first frame. Michael Roll scored 8 second quarter points while Norris Cole added 6 of his own to take a slim 44-42 Yellow & Blue lead into halftime. However, Rice began to take control of the contest with 18 second half points, none bigger than his last second winner over DeAndre Kane to give Holon the 2018 State Cup.
1) Glen. Rice. Jr. The. Best. Player. Period. There’s no question that Glen Rice Jr. is the best player in Israel right now after his dominant State Cup performance leading Holon to the Cup. Rice can do it all. He can control a game from beginning to end, hit shots in every which direction whether it’s off balance jumpers or bank shot 3-pointers. We haven’t seen a player like this in the Holy Land since perhaps Nate Robinson a couple of seasons ago with Hapoel Tel Aviv. To think that many teams passed up on this NBA talent is surprising but of course it’s not what happens on the court but off of it also. There’s no question Rice is shall we say a bit unorthodox from his M&M cravings to his pregame rituals but at the end of the day what’s most important is if he can put up to shut everyone else up. Rice spoke about the keys to the win, “I kept shooting and defending. It was a good team win but I was able to string a couple of buckets at the end when we really needed it.” He also talked about the fact that he actually had little pressure on the last possession, “We had to win. I was lucky that we were going to overtime even if we missed because we weren’t down one. The pressure wasn’t that great. I knew we had overtime.”
2) The question of Rice being given too much respect by the referees came to the forefront after the game as Spahija and his players felt that he was definitely given more leeway than others to the point that Alex Tyus and Kane went after them on Twitter while Norris Cole also chimed in with a few choice words on the zebras, “Both teams competed hard and it was a tough game. There were things that happened out there that shouldn’t have on behalf of the officials. I don’t want to take anything away from Holon, but the referees did some things that they should be ashamed of.” Cole continued about Rice, “He’s a very talented players and one of the best in the league but he shot a ton of free throws; that’s just bad officiating. The refs controlled everything and we couldn’t play competitive basketball. The players need to dictate the game.” The calls on the court also affected the game played out according to Cole, “Every time we went on a run a foul was called or something fluky happened. It’s not really professional basketball when the officials control the game like that. The Israeli officiating is terrible.”
3) DeAndre Kane also reacted about the refereeing to the media that remained at 1am, “It’s ridiculous how they call the game against Maccabi. We go to the basket and get fouled 10 times and Glen Rice gets three straight fouls and Alex is blocking his shot. We can’t win against 8 people. Give them credit but we can’t win when the refs.” Kane continued on, “One guy shoots 14 free throws more than almost our whole team. They don’t call a foul. Rice is holding Pierre and they don’t call a foul. It’s tough for us. We go out and play hard, it’s frustrating, every game.” Terrible refs, “The refs are terrible, we’re tired of it, we just want to play basketball. We go out there and compete hard. Holon competed hard. It was a great game and the refs don’t have to dictate the game. It’s ridiculous.” And yet more on the Israeli officials, “Every game in the Israeli league you’ve got to kill some one for them to call the foul. Right now they are cheating. Point blank, period. They are cheating. There’s nothing else to say.” What will be on Sunday against Ashdod? “It will be the same, they will always cheat.”
How much does Dan Shamir mean to Holon and what’s the secret coaching a player of Rice’s caliber in such an important game? The MVP spoke about his coach, “He’s been a really good coach. He always puts me in good positions to be able to strive and play the best I can. He does a really good job and has good defensive schemes. It always makes things easier when you have a good coach. He knows how to get the best out of the guys.” And Shamir’s secret? “He’s comfortable in any situation. But it would never work if we didn’t have a team in all sense of the word. The players do so many things both on and off of the court and if there’s a secret then that’s it.”
Holon forward Joe Alexander who was the NBA Milwaukee Bucks 8th pick overall in the 2008 draft, stood in the downstairs corridors of Yad Eliyahu after the game wearing a red shirt, sporting a smirk on his face after he won his 2nd straight State Cup and his third overall, this year defeating the team that off loaded him at the end of last season. He leered at the Maccabi personnel when they exited and spoke about his feelings winning the Cup against the Yellow & Blue, “Getting the Cup is huge. Getting it against the team that told me to get lost; that’s big too.”