Captain Clutch: John Dibartolomeo comes up big in Maccabi Tel Aviv’s Classico win over Hapoel Jerusalem

Mar 11, 2024 | Holyland Hoops

There are many definitions as to what a captain is and what a captain should be. Lead by example, maintain control of pressurized situations and positively influence teammates on and off the court are all some ways to describe what characteristics are expected of a captain.

However, the description that perhaps describes what Maccabi Tel Aviv captain John Dibartolomeo was able to do against Hapoel Jerusalem is performing in the clutch and lead the team to victory.

Following a first half that saw the yellow-and-blue lead the reds 90-78 in the Israeli Classico, Dibartolomeo was absolutely unstoppable hitting key shot after key shot from deep going 4/4 from long distance while chalking up 14 second half points for a game total of 19 points in 21 minutes. Perhaps Dibartolomeo should be referred to “Captain Clutch” as it always seems that he finds the big points when the team needs them most.

John Dibartolomeo- Photo credit: Dov Halickman


Maccabi had a tough time as they always seem to have against Jerusalem due to their aggressive and intense style of play and in fact, Oded Katash’s squad actually committed more turnovers (15) than dishing our assists (12) which is such a far cry from what his team usually would see on the state sheet.

But that’s where a hard nosed player like Dibartolomeo comes through and his triples make so much of a difference, making up for the offensive flow that sputtered mightily.

This season in Israeli league play, Dibartolomeo is averaging 9.4 points while shooting a superb 46.9% (30/64) from beyond the arc while in Euroleague action John D is scoring 4.1 points per game while hitting 34.7% (17/49) from deep. But as he did in this game, Dibartolomeo always seems to be able to raise his level when playing in the friendly confines of home at Yad Eliyahu.

John Dibartolomeo- Photo credit: Dov Halickman


Whether it’s just the energy and atmosphere that the fans in a sold out arena create or when they sing his song to the tune of Hey Baby!, Dibartolomeo finds a way to make his mark on a game if it’s with 19 points, 9 points or 3 points. For John D it’s not just the points but it’s the defense, the desire and the drive that makes the guard invaluable to Maccabi Tel Aviv.

“John D has been great all year,” Bonzie Colson who scored 16 points said. “He’s our leader, he’s our captain and he’s our voice. No matter what is going on he comes ready to play and he stepped up in this game and hit some big shots keeping us together when things weren’t going our way.”

Dibartolomeo did hit a pair of back-to-back 3-pointers with the score at 50-49 midway through the third quarter and Jerusalem threatening and then dropped yet another one with the score 59-56 and the reds breathing right down the yellow-and-blue’s collective necks. He also did it again with the score 65-60 second into the final frame showing that he has a flare for the dramatic because each time he drilled home yet another triple it created a little bit more separation between the clubs.

Oded Katash – Photo credit: Dov Halickman


“There is something about John, Katash said. “Maybe because he doesn’t necessarily look like a conventional basketball player but he has played consistently over so many years. There are players that because of certain lineups I don’t always find them a spot and he deserves more playing time, but he always finds a way to be positive.”

Sure, Dibartolomeo sometimes plays very sparingly in continental competition which is what the bench boss was referring to but his positive energy and attitude is no doubt second to none.

“I’m proud of him,” Colson continued. “Every time he scores or gets a steal I’m so happy for him. Every time he shoots the ball I think it is going in. John D has been consistent this whole year and we need him to continue playing like this as we move forward down the stretch.”

John DiBartolomeo – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman


The captain himself understands his role to a “T”, “I’ve been at the club for many years, I understand what this game means to the fans, to the club. These victories are very special in front of our fans that we have missed so much. The longer I’m here, the more I look forward to these big games. It’s part of the tradition. The big games are important and we wanted to win this one. I’m very happy that we started the week on the right foot and that will give us a boost to continue on.”

While Dibartolomeo may not frequently wear his emotions on his sleeve, one player that most certainly does is Colson. He loves a good cheer and always a enjoy a little bit of extracurricular play. But he is a competitor first and foremost and while there was a scuffle that saw Or Cornelius push the forward, that’s always going to be a motivator for #50.

“A little pushing and shoving gets me going,” Colson said. “I think it gets other guys going. It was nothing serious, nothing crazy, it’s just sometimes you need that a little bit. As long as it doesn’t get too physical, I’m good. But it definitely gave us some extra juice for sure.”

Bonzie Colson – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman


“I really wish we can play our home Euroleague games back at home. It’s tough, but we are playing Israeli home games here and we feed off of the energy, we love the atmosphere and we miss it dearly and there is nothing like our fans giving us that extra push when we need it as it motivates us. It’s a fun atmosphere. I was looking around during the game and I was seeing how much we missed that, hearing everybody cheering. Shout us to them for cheering us every possessions and giving us that boost.”

The bottom line is that Dibartolomeo has his own unique way to lead, different from every other captain minted before him, but one thing is for sure in Katash’s eyes, “He’s a very good basketball player, besides being a leader, he doesn’t always talk the most, but that’s the kind of leadership I appreciate the most, by personal example. Watching the way he conducts himself, he is always thinking about the next move. There is no one more worthy to be the captain of Maccabi Tel Aviv.”

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