Credit where credit is due for Guy Goodes who so masterfully guided Hapoel Holon to the Champions League Round of 16 group stage with a tremendous week of basketball topped off by a 74-68 victory over Besiktas at home in a decisive game 3.
The purples may not have played complete basketball as their new coach said. But under the extreme circumstances that saw Goodes join the team roughly 10 days ago while in a 0-1 hole, the players, staff and everyone surrounding the club can’t be any less than thrilled with how things turned out.
Add to that a double overtime victory over Hapoel Haifa in a State Cup quarterfinal contest and Goodes made what many thought would be impossible, possible.
“I hopped onto a train going 180 km/hr,” Goodes said sporting a horse voice. “The guys did a helluva job this week with three knockout games and I’m really happy that we went three for three. Now we have to take it a step forward. I told everyone we wouldn’t be perfect but that I would bring my experience and plenty of it and the belief to be able to win knockout games.”
Holon was certainly helped out by Besiktas inability to hit their shots early on as their 3-pointers came up short, long and off the mark time and time again. They also had issues finding buckets in the paint as they played a bigger lineup than they had done in the first two games of the series.
“We missed some easy baskets and if we were a bit more productive around the rim, we may have been closer but we were chasing them the entire game,” Besiktas coach Ahmet Kandemir said.
Dedric Lawson echoed his coach’s thoughts as the Turkish squad tried to get closer and closer as the minutes ticked off the clock, but ultimately time ran out on their European campaign, “We started out pretty good in the first quarter, but basketball is a game of runs. We fought back but we just couldn’t finish it in the fourth.”
The reason they couldn’t finish it in the final frame was thanks to one of Holon’s newcomers in Adam Smith who joined the club just a few weeks ago. Smith who came over from Turkish club Merkezefendi Belediyesi Denizli Basket felt that perhaps he had a slight advantage having played Besiktas a number of times earlier in the season due to domestic action, “I knew their defense.”
That perhaps may have been a plus for Holon and Smith who ended the game with 20 points to go along with 5 rebounds and 4 assists in an MVP performance, but as he explained, it was all for one and one for all. “Every game we won has been a team effort and we knew that these games were do or die. Every night it’s going to be something different and today we had some foul troubles. Last game we were down and we played through it as we really showed our heart.”
“Adam gave us a lot,” Goodes began. “He helped us with many good plays on the offensive side as well as playing excellent defense just as he did in the State Cup quarterfinal. I am happy with what he has been able to do. I didn’t know him before I got here and I told him before the Cup game that we have to sit and talk in order for us to understand one another better.”
Smith’s play coupled by Chris Johnson’s veteran savvy was crucial in winning this game, Goodes explained, “Chris is great and an anchor. He has great personality and comes to every practice giving 100% which is something that I have seen at the highest of levels. I love these types of players.”
How far can this team go is an open question and does it need something extra to help them over the top as they ready for a tough Round of 16 Group stage with the likes of Ludwigsburg, Galatasaray and either Dijon or Riga.
“I don’t know what our ceiling is and that’s a good question,” Smith pondered. “We will put our heads down and go to work. I think we have everything we need right here. Everyone is on the same page and we move forward on the same page. We are working together through the ups and downs. It’s a long season. We trust coach and the team does what he asks of us.”