Maccabi Tel Aviv slipped by Hapoel Holon 86-84 in a tight battle that went all the way down to wire. The yellow-and-blue got back onto the winning track in Israeli league action after a tough week in Euroleague play as they fell twice in Spain to Real Madrid and the Baskonia. Oded Katash’s squad took a slim lead early on and were able to bump it up to 7-points by the end of the third quarter thanks to strong play by Bonzie Colson. However, Amit Sherf’s team came back as CJ Harris and Drew Crawford hit their shots from deep, but key baskets by John Dibartolomeo and Colson down the stretch clinched the win for Maccabi.
Next up for the yellow-and-blue is another domestic league matchup at home against Hapoel Eilat on Monday night which will be followed up by a continental clash with Anadolu Efes on Thursday in a game that will be played in Riga, Latvia and not in Turkey due to the security situation. Maccabi enters the game with a 13-12 record as they will look to go back up to a pair of games over .500 ahead of the 3-week Euroleague break as Cup games and a national team window await.
Holon will head out to Hungary where they will face Promitheas at their home away from home due to the war in Szombathely. The purples are 1-1 in Basketball Champions League Round of 16 group stage play and will try to bump that up before they return to European action in March.
Colson scored 19 points, Roman Sorkin added 16 points and Jasiel Rivero scored 13 points in the win. Justin Smith paced Holon with 18 points, Harris chipped in with 17 points and Crawford scored 12 points in the loss.
“I’m very happy with the result,” Maccabi coach Oded Katash began. “We have a lot of players that are hurt and some guys are still nursing injuries. While it wasn’t our best game I can’t take the win for granted at a place and against a team that is always difficult to play. It’s been very challenging this season with the flights and tough schedule and we are playing a price due to the war. We are seeing if we can bring another player in if there is that possibility to lighten the load of the squad and Avi Even is working on that.”
“We will remember that we missed one or two baskets that we couldn’t hit from earlier in the game and that was the case in the first quarter,” Holon coach Amit Sherf said. “We can’t look at the last play or two but you can’t give up so many points in each quarter and try to play lock down defense at the end of the game. We should have won the game against Maccabi but that is just 1/24 and in BCL it’s 1/6. We want to get to 2-1 and not have to think about point differential and other tie breakers later on.”
“We wanted to sign Promitheas’s star player Hunter Hale over the summer and we know him very well. He will score 20 points and we will look to go after him on the offensive side and try to tire him out, but they have seven imports and they are a team that can play at a very high level. We have to pick ourselves up and get really prepared for this game as Promitheas is playing Olympiacos in the Greek League so there are no excuses coming into this game.”
Roman Sorkin reflected on the win, “We didn’t lead by much only 9 points at most, but playing at Holon is tough. We needed to stop the momentum and that is what we did. The schedule we have is tough as we have 11 games in the next 23 days coming up but we can’t complain as there is a war going on. The entire situation is not a simple one, but as professionals we have to come in focussed and give our best. When you play against Maccabi like I did once, everyone comes in wanting to play their best but playing for Maccabi is a blessing. We lost some games that we shouldn’t have and we need to go into the upcoming ones the way that we have to in order to win.”
Yotam Hanochi discussed the game from his point of view, “It’s tough to lose this game. We were there against a team of that caliber but any mistake you make and Maccabi will make you pay. It’s great that so many fans came to support us and they helped us give everything we have. We have a big game coming up in the BCL and this will spur us forward. For sure we can do what the team did last season. We really believe in ourselves as to who we are and that we can advance out of our group. The games are tough just like the one against Maccabi as well as the first two that we had so far in group play.”
Roman Sorkin scored on the inside and outside to get things rolling for Maccabi Tel Aviv, Justin Smith answered for Hapoel Holon but a John Dibartolomeo 3-pointer gave the visitors a 14-10 lead midway through the first quarter. Drew Crawford went from deep, Dibartolomeo and Jasiel Rivero in the paint, Yotam Hanochi did the same with a pair as Rivero responded to give Oded Katash’s team a 23-21 lead after ten minutes of play.
Rivero opened up the second quarter just as he ended the first with points while Antonius Cleveland dunked and Jake Cohen scored inside, CJ Harris went for a pair from downtown, Cleveland came back with a 3-point play and Tamir Blatt hit a floater to give Maccabi a 37-29 lead with 5:09 left in the half. Niv Misgav dialled up long distance, Lorenzo Brown knocked down a midrange jumper, Shawn Dawson and Netanel Artzi scored their first points of the game, Crawford nailed a corner 3-ball, Rivero scored at the other end and Rafi Menco went from deep to give Maccabi a 45-43 advantage at halftime.
Smith and Sorkin traded baskets inside, Crawford went from downtown, Bonzie Colson hit a jumper and so did Misgav, Rivero and Smith scored at each end but Dibartolomeo went from long distance to keep Maccabi in front 56-54 midway through the third quarter. Sorkin and Colson scored, Harris went from downtown, Colson and Sorkin continued to score and Josh Nebo put in a deuce as the yellow-and-blue stayed ahead 68-61 after thirty minutes of action.
Cleveland came off the right flank with a massive dunk, Misgav went from downtown, Menco did the same, Blatt put in a deuce and so did Artzi and Harris dialled up long distance to cut the lead to 75-71 with five minutes remaining. Colson and Harris traded points from deep, Dibartolomeo knocked down a 4-point play, Crawford went from beyond the arc, Artzi scored in the paint and Colson hit his free throws to close out the game for Maccabi.