Facts of Life: Rough lesson for Jerusalem in win during holiday season where players make sacrifices for team and families

Dec 26, 2021 | Holyland Hoops

“You take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and there you have the facts of life, the facts of life”

Just as the intro song to the TV show “Facts of Life” states, that is what Hapoel Jerusalem can take out of their 73-69 win over Maccabi Rishon Le’Zion at the Arena on Saturday night. There was good and there was bad and when you take them both, well then you have the facts of life for the capital city Reds.

Yotam Halperin’s squad never seemed to be able to put Rishon away all night long, a Rishon team that finds itself at the bottom of the standings and a Rishon team that just let go of their coach Guy Goodes.

Jerusalem perhaps came into the game a bit nonchalantly, expecting that by just showing up they would win the matchup without much of a sweat. But boy were they in for a surprise. Sure, they built up a double digit lead at times, but when it came down to crunch time with under a minute to play in the game, they found themselves all knotted up at 69-69. Which was probably a horrifying thought and feeling for Halperin’s charges.

Retin Obasihan – Photo Credit: Basket.co.il

Retin Obasohan, who has arguably been the MVP of the league this season came up huge once again for the Reds as he flirted with a triple-double as the Belgian international scored 19 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and dished out 7 assists in the victory. In fact, it was his late driving lay-up that put Jerusalem up for good while Sean Kilpatrick iced the matchup with a pair of free throws after Tu Holloway who led the comeback charge for interim coach Alon Stein missed a 3-pointer which could have put Rishon in the lead.

“It was a rough one and it’s a lesson for us. No matter who we play and no matter where they are ranked we have to bring our best effort. Luckily today we were able to win the game but it could have gone the other way. Other times we won’t be as lucky and we have to learn from this as a team and grow, watch film and get better,” Obasohan said following the victory.

Kilpatrick who went for 17 points, 6 boards, 4 assists and 4 steals also understood how “lucky” Jerusalem had been to take the “W”, “We consider games like that learning experience and we have been rolling but we had to play a lot better tonight. We have to handle success a lot better. We are approaching some tough games soon. At home we cannot let it be that close like that. We did not really come to work and we can’t do that. Teams in this league can come at you every night. There’s pressure every day but that’s what we signed up for.”

Sean Kilpatrick – Photo Credit: Basket.co.il

Halperin, who has done an excellent job steadying the Jerusalem ship after coming down from the front office to take over the coaching reins, sees the inconsistency that his team has shown over the course of the time he has been on the sidelines and he never minces words when he doesn’t like something that he sees. That perhaps is the beauty of Halperin as a coach and what has allowed the players to buy in to what he is doing which has turned around Jerusalem’s season.

“This was a very bad game for us and it happened even during a good streak,” Halperin noted. “We have to learn from a game like this. We came into the game in better shape and deeper than Rishon. They were able to make this game difficult and they came back.”

“Just thinking that things would be ok is an issue and we were overconfident. We can’t think that we will win a game without a challenge from the other team. We have to know how to play basketball when the energy isn’t there.”

All true and this was no doubt the message that Halperin gave his troops after the final buzzer sounded.

Alon Stein and Yotam Halperin- Photo Credit: Basket.co.il

Rishon, for the time being has assistant coach Alon Stein on the sidelines who took over on an interim basis from the recently departed Guy Goodes. Although Stein won’t be in the top spot for long as Dror Cohen seems to be the candidate who will take over, he did have some pointed words for the team after a blowout loss last week to Herzliya which led to a much better performance in Jerusalem.

“It wasn’t easy over the last few days as I came to Rishon because of Guy. I said after the Herzilya game that if the players play this way they have no reason to be here. But I saw where we could make some moves in order to compete with Jerusalem. We can take some positives away from the game as we didn’t break down and that in fact we are a good team. We do however need some kind of addition to help us out and maybe go with 5 imports.”

One of course has to wonder where Jerusalem would be without Obasohan who has been so critical for the team’s success and why they are currently in first place I league play. Oba was a player that Oren Amiel brought over with his from Nymburk and has just been superb as he will no doubt build off of this season and perhaps move on to the top league in Euroleague next year.

Retin Obasohan – Photo Credit: Basket.co.il

As usual, Obasohan didn’t want to look at his own play but rather the team as a whole, “The beauty of this team that our organization put together, is that we are extremely deep and extremely talented. I was fortunate to play the game I played, but Su (Braimoh) stepped up really big in the first half. If you look at all of the games we’ve played we have a lot of weapons on this team.”

Kilpatrick one of the team’s weapons himself had plenty of praise for his teammate Obasohan, “Retin is an important piece for us especially at the one and he has been playing extremely well since we have been here. He is one of our main guys and we look for him to lead for us. He also knows he has other weapons on the team.”

One of the club’s new weapons is center John Egbunu who will come in to play the five position. The Nigerian born Egbunu began the season in Italy with Varese and also played with the Nets G League team right after attending Florida. In 8 games with Varese this year, Egbunu has been averaging 11 points and 9.4 rebounds a game and could be the missing piece to the puzzle, Halperin explained, “We were missing a player with size in the paint and he will help us with the physical side in the Champions League I am sure.”

John Egbunu – Photo Credit: Hapoel Jerusalem

Kilpatrick, who played a number of seasons in the NBA and has been plying his trade overseas since 2019 also offered a sense of what it is like for a foreigner to be away from home especially during the Holiday season. Players are human beings and their feelings can’t be ignored when they are away from family and friends on Christmas.

“I played in the Association (NBA) for 3-4 years. It’s tough to bring that energy on a day that everyone is at home celebrating. But we make sacrifices not just for our ball club but for our families. We are still here fighting to get in a better situation for the rest of the season.”

Fighting Jerusalem did and while they have taken the good and taken the bad, the facts are that the Reds are in pretty good shape as they head into the Israeli Classico next Saturday night against Maccabi Tel Aviv in what could be a very telling matchup for both squads.

Sign up for our newsletter


You may also like…


Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates. 

You have Successfully Subscribed!