The positive energy oozed out of the Nahariya players as they dumped Hapoel Holon 88-77 at the Drive In Arena to advance to the Winner Cup semifinals. Danny Franco’s squad was in control throughout the 40 minutes of play as Jerel McNeal led all scorers with 20 points, Dominic Waters dropped 17 points and added 7 assists, while Jeff Adrien clocked in with 14 points. Latavious Williams was Holon’s top point man with 14 points and Shlomi Harush added 12 points in the defeat.
Nahariya took the bull by the horns over the first half and grabbed a 47-38 lead over Holon after twenty minutes as Jerel McNeal and Dominic Waters led the way for the Northern side while Ryan Thompson tried to keep the game within reach for Sharon Drucker’s team.
Travis Warech, Egor Koulechov and Jeff Adrien paced Nahariya in the second half and Danny Franco’s squad easily took home the victory 11 point win to punch their ticket to the semifinals where they will play Maccabi Tel Aviv.
Tony Gaffney spoke to The Sports Rabbi following the game about Nahariya’s victory and the keys to the win. “We worked really, really hard and when we can play a game and put everything we have been working on on display it’s always fun and exciting. This is just the beginning.”
It’s clear that the players and staff are enamored with one another and that translates it to positive vibes and play both on and off of the court. Interestingly enough, the foreigners on the team are battle tested veterans and guys who have been in the trenches while the Israelis are primarily younger. “We have a group of guys that really like each other,” Gaffney explained. “We have a lot of guys that are just here to win. When you get older and you play this game a long time you realize what’s important. When you play in leagues like this the most important thing is winning. You can find some leagues where they are looking for guys to score 20 and 10 but this is not one of those leagues. Here you are based on winning and success. We genuinely enjoy working with each other and it’s going to show.”
Of course, while it’s great to be playing well now, the goal is to be playing their best basketball as the season winds down in May. But that doesn’t mean the title should be overlooked Gaffney says, “Any time you have a chance to play for a title, it’s what drives us. It’s what has driven me my whole career. I won one Winner Cup before and it’s exciting. Obviously as big and as fun as this is, the most important thing is not to be playing your best basketball now but we want to talk about that in May. We have a long way to go and a lot of work to do. Hopefully we will be talking in May about bigger things.”