Hapoel Tel Aviv continued their winning ways with a dominant 98-90 win over London Lions in EuroCup action. The Reds saw Tomer Ginat and Xavier Munford score with ease as Danny Franco’s side moved to 4-0 in continental play and set up a huge game against Paris next week in a battle of undefeated teams in Division A. Both Ginat and Munford scored 24 points a piece while Jaylen Hoard and Brian Angola each chalked up 16 points in the victory. Mathew Morgan scored 22 points and Conor Morgan added 18 points in the defeat.
“We had a weekend without games and we had to be sharper in order to remain steadfast for 40 minutes,” Franco said. “I have to credit the players who came in to play basketball with the situation surrounding us. I am proud, proud for our fans that came to see us play and win and I am happy that we continued our streak against a very good team who had been winning as well.”
Ginat and Munford opened the game strong for Hapoel Tel Aviv while Gabe Olaseni countered for London Lions but points from Brian Angola gave the Reds a 30-21 lead after ten minutes of play. Ginat and Angola kept filling the basket for Franco’s squad while Conor Morgan and Jordan Taylor countered for Peter Bozic’s team, however, Munford scored as well to send Hapoel into halftime holding a 51-39 advantage.
Munford began the third quarter just as he ended the second with points a plenty, while J’Covan Brown and Jaylen Hoard stepped up for Hapoel as well to take a 77-59 lead after thirty minutes of action. Matthew Morgan tried in vain to get London back into the game as Ginat and Hoard polished the clash up to take the win and remain undefeated.
All in all it was another incredible performance for Hapoel who are surprisingly in cruise control thus far after four contests especially due to the difficult circumstances the team is competing in because of the war.
“I want to thank the London Lions organization for having us here during the rough days. Doing whatever they can, being amazing. The game itself was super competitive as we could expect. We were coming in after a rough week where there was a major break between the games, half of the team went back to Israel and half stayed in Europe for 4-5 days. So we knew we would have some conditioning issues during the game. The way we have been practicing, I am taking every game as a blessing. The players efforts and focus that we kept for most of the game, I hope we made a lot of guys happy back home.”
Israel National Team captain and Reds stalwart Tomer Ginat has been very vocal throughout the war about the importance of representing the country and is aware as to how critical it is for Hapoel Tel Aviv and its fans that they put in 110% effort.
“It was very important for us to win the game. It’s been three weeks since we left Israel in order to continue to play in the EuroCup. Our country is in a very rough spot right now and it’s important to represent the country just as we did in this game. This was a big win for us and we have to continue this way.”
Hapoel owner Ofer Yannay reflected on these games being an opportunity to continue to raise awareness about the atrocities that Hamas committed against Israel and the Jewish people as well as to fans of the club, some of which are being held in Gaza by the evil enemy.
“We must remember and remind everyone all the time, everywhere in the world, of the atrocities committed by Hamas-ISIS terrorists against innocent Israeli citizens. 19 of the murdered were Hapoel fans and there are a number more that are missing. Our hearts go out to each of the victims’ families. The Hapoel family embraces and will forever remember them. We wish and pray for the speedy return of the missing in peace.”
With the shadow of the conflict on all Israeli teams that are competing, it just makes Hapoel’s showing even that more impressive while not only being at the top of the standings but also leading the way in some statistical categories as well, Franco commented.
“We had about 2.5-3 practices to get ready for this game. We planned for Sam Dekker to play, for Josh Sharma maybe coming back so a lot of things we prepared and got ready for were not relevant in the game, so we had to find our way and build up our game. We relied mainly on ourselves as to what we could do as a team. We aligned to what we can do as a team, like being a team that shares the basketball, we got a lot of assists – we are leading the competition – and we tried to control the pace of the game as much as possible. I was worried about London the way they did in the second half when they were down from the beginning, we didn’t react well for that. I ned to tank my guys and respect my guys for bringing another W under not normal conditions.”
Whether Hapoel can win the entire competition is still an open question, especially since there have only been four games so far, but Paris coming up will be a very good litmus test as the French squad comes into the game with a 5-0 record in what will be an epic game so early on in the season.
“Paris is a good team and haven’t lost a game up until this point,” Ginat explained. “This will be a very big game for us. We have to keep playing spirited basketball and that will be the key to that contest coming up.”
Franco also reflected on if Hapoel can win the EuroCup and which would then send them into the Euroleague for next season, “It’s tough for me to answer that question, we are playing just European games right now, so we are lucky that we have experience with each other and we have chemistry, communication. Things that are at the end of the day super important to be a successful team.”
“I just hope from one game to another we can get better, learn each other even better and can build up better chemistry especially on the defensive end where we are lacking some concentration and communication over there. If we can build it up right, anything can happen. The sky’s the limit for us. But I think the competition this season is open with a lot of teams that can win. right now we are taking it one day at a time and not looking too far ahead.”
Ultimately, Hapoel wants to win and wants to get to the top of the EuroCup, but as Tomer Ginat explains, there are things right now that are more important than the sport itself. The fact that they are currently playing as nomads so to speak, returning to Tel Aviv to be with the supporters is the goal that everyone wants to see as soon as possible.
“There are things that are more important than basketball. We are hoping to continue to bring some happiness to our fans during this tough time. The situation in the country right now is one of the most difficult ones ever and all we want to do is to bring some joy to as many fans as possible and to return to the Drive In together with everyone. I hope that this will occur very soon.