Hapoel Holon captured the Balkan League Championship after defeating Academic Plovdiv 91-75 in a game that was much closer than the score indicated. The Bulgarian squad held the lead for the first three quarters but Stefanos Dedas’s team played lockdown defense to limit Plovdiv to just 9 points in the final frame while scoring timely baskets to take home their first title of the campaign.
MVP Isaiah Miles scored 18 points and grabbed 8 rebounds, Tyrus McGee led all scorers with 20 points as Guy Pnini and Nate Sestina each contributed 14 points in the win. Obrad Tomic scored 18 points, Jere Vucica added 16 points and Jahii Carson checked in with a double double, 10 points and 11 rebounds in the loss.
Academic Plovdiv took advantage of Hapoel Holon’s makeshift starting lineup as Jahii Carson, Obrad Tomic and Jere Vucica helped the Bulgarian squad to a 26-23 lead after ten minutes canceling out a hot start by Nate Sestina for Stefanos Dedas’s team.
Tyrus McGee and Isaiah Miles pulled Holon even midway through the second quarter but sharp shooting by Nikolay Titkov and Vucica along with fine inside play by Tomic, Plovdiv stayed in front 46-40 at halftime.
Plovdiv continued their fine play into the 3rd quarter as Anthony Gugino, Martin Sortirov, Nikolay Nikolov and Vucica all found points, but McGee and Miles cut the gap to 66-64 after thirty minutes.
Miles got the fourth quarter underway with a triple while Sestina and Maxim De Zeeuw added points to give Holon a 74-68 lead with 5:59 left in regulation time. De Zeeuw went from deep as McGee and Guy Pnini scored to give Dedas’s squad their first title of the season.
Coach Stefanos Dedas spoke about the victory following the game, “We are proud to add one more title to the club and it was a very difficult competition. This league played with 12 Israeli teams. We didn’t underestimate Plovdiv and we did video and worked a lot. We made a 40-14 run and we deserved to win. They are a good team but we won.”
“They played basketball. Spacing, shooting and they have an American, Carson who can play in Israel. We shared the ball and attacked the weak defenders plus we had a good defensive effort.”
The MVP of the final Four Isaiah Miles also reflected on the championship, “It was huge. First title for a lot of us and the win is a huge confidence boost in the league and the Basketball Champions League. We will use this as a stepping stone. But first we have a huge game on Saturday.”
“Guy Pnini gave us a talk in the lockerroom and the fans brought the energy. But Guy had to give us that boost to make sure we had to win. I commend my team because they fought hard after we were punched first. Our team is special and everyone knows their role. We have one common goal to win. We are warriors. The crowd also helped us find that energy. I never had a crowd like that in college. I just want to bring titles to Holon.”
Nes Ziona just got by Nahariya 94-90 after having led comfortably for most of the game. Thanks to Jaron Blossomgame and Malik Newman, the northerners went on a late run to take the lead late in the fourth quarter but Nimrod Levi and Jerome Meyinsse’s double-doubles were too much as the FIBA Europe Cup champions recorded the 4-point victory. Levi scored 24 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, Jerome Meyinsse added 22 points and 10 rebounds while Lior Carreira chipped in with 14 points in the win. Newman led all scorers with 29 points and Blossomgame scored 22 points in the loss.