Hapoel Holon dominated a shorthanded Hapoel Jerusalem 101-82 as they completed a full round of 11 games undefeated to move their record to 18-4 and into first place. Dan Shamir’s squad used high energy and a huge 27-11 second quarter to cruise to the 19-point victory. Darion Atkins led the hosts with a 25 points 12 rebound double-double performance off of the bench while Corey Walden scored 16 points and dished out 7 assists as Scottie Reynolds had arguably his best game of the season with 13 points. Jerusalem who were playing without Josh Owens who flew to the United States and Amare Stoudemire who was nursing a knee injury relied on Tashawn Thomas who topped the Jerusalem scorers with 24 points and 11 boards while Tamir Blatt added 14 points but only had 2 assists in the loss.
Holon jumped out to a 14-9 lead midway through the first quarter as Walden managed the hosts attack, but a quick 10-0 punctuated by a pair of Thomas buckets gave Jerusalem a 19-14 advantage. However, Dan Shamir’s squad pulled to within 2-points, 25-23 in favor of the visitor’s after ten minutes of action. Atkins began decimating the Jerusalem defense as he came off of the bench to help Holon take a 39-30 lead midway through the second quarter. Guy Pnini and TJ Cline hit uncontested shots to extend the advantage to 50-36 at halftime.
Dequan Jones and Shawn Jones supplied the Holon offense at the start of the 3rd quarter while Jerusalem’s Tamir Blatt drilled home a pair of triples to try and keep Oded Katash’s team in the game. But it was to no avail as the hosts took a 74-59 lead into the final frame. Atkins continued his scoring spree over the final ten minutes as Holon blew away Jerusalem 101-82 for their first win over the Reds this season.
1)Holon was the better team by far on Saturday night, outplaying, outpacing, outrunning and outgunning a slow and sloppy Hapoel Jerusalem. The Reds showed some signs of fight in the first quarter but it was all downhill from there as Darion Atkins carved up the Jerusalem defense who couldn’t find an answer for his dominance on both ends of the floor. Atkins, who is in his second go around with Holon spoke to The Sports Rabbi following the victory, “This was an important win after dropping two important games to them earlier this season, once in the regular season and once in the Cup. This was definitely a morale boost for us to show that we are one of the top teams in the Israeli league.” As for the victory being a statement win? “That’s a statement that’s unspoken for us and we want to be humble in the same breath.” Atkins has always been able to put up good numbers in Israel and credited the desire to come out with energy to help his team, “That’s just a testament for me wanting to come out with energy for my team. We play hard and smart and have chemistry. I just want to come off the bench with a lot of energy. Sometimes we haven’t come out with a lot of energy since the season began but tonight I just wanted to come out with a lot of energy.” Corey Walden also chimed in on the importance of the W, “This was a very important win and for a lot of different reasons. It was important for our team that we can compete and it was important for certain players that gave a good feeling and rhythm and it was a team effort.”
2) Oded Katash was at a loss for answers following his squad’s lackluster performance. It seemed that anything he tried throughout the game just didn’t work. Without Tamir Blatt being able to find his teammates it made for a long night and one that included many adjustments throughout the 40 minutes. Whether it was Alex Chubrevich who played under 2 minutes and was a -10 or Demitrius Conger who played under ten minutes the loss of Josh Owens, Chris Johnson who is still out and not having Amare Stoudemire play his first league game as an Israeli left the coach with some serious issues to deal with. I asked about not playing Conger more minutes in the game, “The plan was for him to play more, but when the game began differently than we had expected, I had to make adjustments. We wanted to try and play faster and it worked for a bit but you can plan something and it just doesn’t happen.” Da’Sean Butler also spoke about the game that was, “That’s life, it happens. I thought we were flat at the beginning of the game and we didn’t match their intensity. We started chasing and they are a very good team who thrive on cheap points and running the floor. We didn’t come out early enough to match that and by the time we did they had created a gap.”
3) Tashawn Thomas was superb against his former team and played a solid game on both ends of the courts. I caught up with him following the contest and began by discussing the defeat, “It’s one game and we’ll move on to the next one. We’ll be alright.” He also spoke about his own play of late, “I am happy but at the same time it’s a team effort. If the team’s not winning it’s not that good of a thing.” Thomas continued talking about the game that was, “It happens and every team has a slow start sometimes and that happened to us tonight.” Is Jerusalem concerned about losing two league games in a row? “I don’t think we’re too worried about it as it all matters when we get to the playoffs. As long as we get to the playoffs we will be happy but of course we want to get a good seedling. Bit like I said it all matters when we get to the playoffs.” After getting by Neptunas in Champions League play, Tenerife awaits who are definitely going to be a challenge, “I’ve watched a couple of games and it’s going to be tough. I watched their games with Holon and their last game and it’s going to be tough. They are one of the top teams in the Champions League just like us so it’s going to be a battle.
The fans have got to calm down. All of them. After Amare Stoudemire was granted Israeli citizenship this week, the Holon fans decided top protest which included signs in the crowd asking if there was a Mohel to do a circumcision, fans yelling that Amare is a “Goy”, the Holon mascot running around with a Teudat Zehut asking that he receive citizenship and footballer Pedro Galvan showing up. Bottom line, a zoo. On the other side of the court we heard a few Pnini met (die) chants, but with the Malha Brigade hooligans not coming to the game as a protest, the crowd was much more peaceful while still coming in serious numbers. When will the fans learn that basketball and sports are just a game? It’s not life or death and not a place to act like infants and delinquents. Sports are supposed to be a fun and entertaining night out for the whole family, not a battlefield.