Joe Ragland sometimes looks like Superman. The way he moves, the way he grooves and the way he can just take over a game and end it once and for all for his team.
And that was the case in Hapoel Holon’s 83-73 win over Hapoel Galil Elyon.
The point guard took the proverbial bull by the horns with his team in front 63-59 and 4:55 left in the fourth quarter and scored 13 of Holon’s final 20 points to out the game away once and for all.
Galil had begun the contest in a huge hole but slowly and surely climbed out to make it a game come money time. However, when a team has a player like Ragland no matter what difficulties Holon may have had recently in Basketball Champions League action with a trio of absolutely devastating losses, they always have a chance.
There aren’t many players like Ragland who have the ability to just take the ball and do as he pleases especially when Holon was playing with a very short rotation due to injuries.
First the Springfield, Massachusetts drew a foul and put in a pair of free throws, he then added a layup which was followed up by, one, two, three triples and that was that.
Game, set, match.
“I told Joe take the ball, get it over the half court line and you take care of it. Do what you need to do [in order to win the game],” Holon coach Guy Goodes said just out of a timeout when the score was tight down the stretch.
Boy did he take care of that ball and do what he needed to in order for Holon to take the win over an up and coming Galil Elyon team with plenty of tools that can cause issues for any team in the league.
Ragland has many, many years under his belt having also played in the Euroleague, but at a very young 33-years old he is still a very capable and crafty of playing plenty of minutes while not losing a step.
But playing in both the Israeli League and the Basketball Champions League, Goodes knows that he needs to take good care of one of his most important assets in order to keep him fresh and ready to go when called upon especially with a much shorter roster than last season.
“We really make sure that we take care of him at practice and he has various treatments. He also takes good care of himself if it’s in ice baths and the like. We don’t have any extra and this team is different than the one we had last season when we had another import guard and seven foreigners. We have seven rotation players while last season we had more than that 9-10. But this it is what it is for the rest of the way as we won’t be making any changes.”
As for Ragland, the point guard spoke about his fourth quarter heroics, “I just wanted to be aggressive in that moment,” the guard explained. “Make sure I got the best shot for my team, if it’s me or my teammates. Give credit to them [Galil] as they have always been a good team since they have been in the first division and they had a five game winning streak. They were going to have moments when they were going to fight back and make it a game, but I’m glad we won.”
Goodes and Holon had a rough run in continental play with a brutal overtime loss at Strasbourg, then a devastating home defeat to local rivals Hapoel Jerusalem which was followed up by a late game collapse against JDA Dijon.
They will now have three “home games” with the two French teams in Holon and a contest in Jerusalem but just to comeback from a real rough set of continental clashes was not easy for the bench boss and took plenty of off the court work.
“It was a lot of mental work to prepare the team as best as possible,” Goodes said. “It’s going into their souls. Chris Johnson didn’t feel well but I said you need to play this game against Galil Elyon. I told him to take a break for two days and come in and that’s what he did. He has a lot of character and we have a lot of character in the lockerroom.”
Ragland and Johnson are veteran players that Goodes can lean on in the time of need, but they are also examples of what a professional athlete should be as well that many a younger player can learn a thing or two from.
That would be the case for up and coming Galil guard Itay Moskovits who at just 22-years old has turned plenty of heads averaging 11.8 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2.2 assists this season. Add to that going 39/41 for 95% from the free throw line and 28/73 for 38.4% from downtown and you’ve got one heck of a player.
The Sabra floor general has shown that he can really play ball with the big boys and has scored in double digits in 10 out of 17 games this season. It should come as no surprise that he has been called up to the Israel National Team camp for their games at the end of the month against Finland and at Slovenia.
As to what he saw from Ragland on the court, the ever modest Moskovits brought up a couple of points for himself and the team as a whole.
“I really liked to see how he communicates and talks to the players which is much more than just basketball talent. It’s his character and how he really controls and manages the team. We learnt what it takes to be able to play against this type of quality team and what we need to do to go to the top of the league and battle for a place in the championship playoffs. We need to lift up our level of play.”
Galil Elyon is a team that has taken it upon themselves as an organization to work with young Israeli players, nurture and help develop them which has been successful to date with yet another solid season. Barak Peleg along with his staff have been tasked with that job and so far they have done the job admirably day in and day out.
Peleg knows that Moskovits has the potential to be a top of the line player and that he is working hard towards that goal. However, with everything it’s all a matter of time and gaining experience in order to continue to take his game to the next level.
“When you look at a player like Joe Ragland you can see how he prepares and how he plays the game with all of the experience that he has. Itay is still a youngster, a child in this regard. You all see the game, but we see the entire week, the preparation, the discussions, before and after games and practices which is really the story of a player.
“He is very special and is just at the start of his career and it’s just the beginning. One can’t look at this season as “the season” because it takes years to build up and become a player from preparation to becoming a leader and beyond. This all comes down to gaining experience.”
Joe Ragland who is as good as it gets in the Holy Land also sees the potential of what #7 as he called him can do on the court and that he will be a force to reckoned with going forward.
“I like him and I love his game, love his pace and I told him that today. He has a great style and the future is bright for him.”
Holon’s coach Guy Goodes had to contend with Moskovits in this game and did a good job containing him to 11 points with him going 6/6 from the charity stripe.
Goodes was himself a young Israeli point guard back in the late 1980’s and 1990’s and for him to see a player like Moskovits coming into his own and developing into a top talent is heartwarming.
“He is a very talented kid and one can see that. He has the ability to score and really move the ball. It’s great to see a player like that who is coming into his own who played in Netanya and now Galil. He was injured and returned to play with a lot of skill. Huber is also very influential for that team when they play with the two guards. They are shooting really well from deep as well. It’s just really great to see players developing especially Israelis.”
As Hapoel Galil Elyon continues on their mission to bring up young Israeli home grown players and want to make some noise in the upper half of the standings, Hapoel Holon is looking at the now and how they can defend their league title and make it back to the Final Four of the Champions League.
They may have an uphill battle without the same depth that they had last year, but they still have that veteran know how and oodles and oodles of experience which has no substitute.
“Whoever we have to play against we have to be ready,” Ragland said. “We play Jerusalem next week and we have to handle that game first. We have to take it one game at a time. We are going to fight and continue to fight. We lost a BCL game but we have the credentials to win and we will give ourselves the best chance to win.”