GI JOE: Crafty Ragland rises above all in Holon’s road win at Jerusalem

May 28, 2022 | Holyland Hoops

The playoffs always seem to bring out the best in the star players no matter what sport and no matter in what country. The greats know how to raise the level of their game as they are aware that there is a championship on the line as well as the opportunity to become an immortal to the respective fanbase.

We have all seen what Jimmy Butler has done for the Miami Heat in the NBA playoffs as he has taken his A game to the next level.

In Israel, it was Joe Ragland who checked in with 40 points in Hapoel Holon’s 93-78 semifinal game one win over Hapoel Jerusalem giving his club the chance to punch they ticket to the final on Monday evening on their home court.

Joe Ragland – Photo Credit: Sports Rabbi

The cream rises to the top as the greats of the game know how to rise to the occasion and that is what occurred for Ragland as he absolutely sliced and diced the Reds defense all game long to steal home court advantage and silence the Jerusalem faithful in the process.

40 points, 8/10 from long distance, 7 rebounds, 9 assists, 4 steals and a 49 efficiency rating placed the guard in very, very elite company when it comes to Israeli basketball. This is especially true on the road against a team that they hadn’t beaten all season long and in an arena that they hadn’t been victorious in close to six years.

Holon now only needs one more win in two games to find their way to the final and a chance to win the league title for the first time since the 2007/08 season and it was Ragland who put them in that position.

The 32-year old American-Liberian guard has played in a myriad of countries including Spain, Italy, Turkey, Serbia and made his way to the Holy Land for the 2020/21 season where he plied his trade by the Red Sea for Hapoel Eilat. Following his campaign down south he signed with Holon and helped the club reach the Basketball Champions League Final Four where he was named to the Star Lineup along with teammate Chris Johnson.

Joe Ragland – Photo Credit: Sports Rabbi

Ragland has been an integral part of the Holon lineup in 49 games this season across the two competitions as he has averaged 12.6 points, 3.4 rebounds and 6.7 assists while playing close to 30 minutes a game.

Following the game, the Wichita State product attempted to brush off his all-world showing as he had done all season long, “I don’t even know how many points I scored. We brought a tremendous amount of energy and we played a very good game. A lot of players are capable of doing what I did but I have been trying to show consistency throughout the season. My performance is not as important as the success of the club and the win that we recorded.”

However, when asked if this was his best ever game as a professional, he had to shyly admit that it was, “We had to win and I just tried to attack and be aggressive. I think that this was my best game, but right now is not the time to celebrate we still have work to do.”

One of Ragland’s known qualities as a pro that has seen him play in the Euroleague and the EuroCup is his attention to detail and being a student of the game which is something his Holon coach Guy Goodes admires about his point guard.

Guy Goodes – Photo Credit: Sports Rabbi

“It’s very important that players watch and learn and know how to read the game of basketball. Joe was fantastic today and the entire team were really part of this win as they defended well and we knew that in order to win we had to do it with defense and the offense would come from there. He’s done this is in the past and he has played in the Euroleague, but he’s found a home here and he is a player that can lead us. We are one game away from the final.”

Ragland also spoke about how he has continued to become a better player as the years have gone as he molded his game after a couple of all-star guards along the way, “It’s a mixture of players, Allen Iverson and Chris Paul. I try to match their game to mine and just continue to study the game and I feel I have many more years left. I want to keep working and studying.”

“You’ve got to study your craft if you want to be great and this is the way I’ve seen it my entire life. I want to continue this way to maximize my career. I didn’t feel anything special before the game but that it was just a desperate game and the pressure wasn’t on us as they were the home team in the first game. We came with this attitude and to attack.”

Over on the Jerusalem side, a disappointed head coach Yotam Halperin had no answers as to how his team could have slowed down a seemingly unstoppable Ragland and didn’t hide from that fact, “Ragland did things in this game that were impossible to stop. He had a heroic game and it shows you that he is a very high quality player. Although we did a good job on him in the three games prior to this one, this time he finished with a stat line that if he duplicates in the next game we will have a very tough time to win. We have to find a way to bring the series back here to Jerusalem.”

Joe Ragland – Photo Credit: Sports Rabbi

Reds guard Noam Dovrat knows that Ragland was one of the problems that his team faced but not the only issue that they need to correct going into the second game, “Ragland was a big problem but there were other problems that we have to deal with and will need to improve going into the next game. We have to take better shots and if we miss we have to keep going.”

Credit has to go to Holon and Goodes as they were able to prepare properly for this encounter from the previous meetings and were able to place themselves into the drivers seat as they look to close out the series at home.

“We learnt a lesson from the last two games we played in Jerusalem and we didn’t get caught up in their aggressiveness. We took away home court advantage but the series is not over, it’s just beginning. We made plenty of mistakes on the defensive end but giving up just 78 points is fine. The guys were focussed and we picked up a big win, however this is a series and we have to come in prepared for the next game.”

Ragland felt that Goodes had his team ready to go but cautions that the series is far from over, “Coach prepared us really well for this game but we have to continue this way as this was only the first game of the series. We know we had to win one game on the road and we have to keep pushing and battling on.”

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