Holon drops Afula 85-80 to win Israeli league opener

Dec 2, 2023 | Holyland Hoops

Hapoel Holon got by league newcomers Hapoel Afula 85-80 to open their Israeli league slate with a win. Justin Smith starred for the purples as the big man along with guard Nick Johnson and Israeli forward Yotam Hanochi were able to overcome stellar performances by Marcellus Earlington, Cam Shelton and Cassius Stanley to take the victory.

Yotam Hanochi and Nick Johnson went to work for Hapoel Holon early on but Cassius Stanley, Spencer Weisz and a pair of triples from Marcellus Earlington made the purples pay for their 8 first quarter turnovers with 12 points to close the gap to 28-25 after ten minutes of play. Things went for bad to worse for the hosts as Cam Shelton, Noam Avivi and Muriel Lutaty kept finding the bottom of the basket for Roie Peled’s team as they outscored Amit Sherf’s team 20-7 in the second quarter to head into halftime with a 45-35 advantage.

Justin Smith and Nick Johnson started to cut into the Afula lead as Earlington and Shelton tried to keep Afula in front with a comfortable gap, but Smith finished the third quarter strong to pull Holon to within just 2-points, 69-67 after thirty minutes of action. Drew Crawford and an active Smith out the hosts into the lead for good as Johnson and Niv Misgav hit their free throws down the stretch to take win.

Smith ended the game with 22 points and 9 rebounds, Hanochi added 14 points while Johnson scored 13 points and dished out 7 assists in the win. Earlington scored 17 points, Shelton added 16 points and Weisz chipped in with 15 points in the loss.

“We were taught a lesson in this game but we were able to win which was good,” Holon coach Amit Sherf said. “We wanted to run and were aggressive on the ball which we did in the first quarter, but we gave up some bad baskets at the end of that quarter and there was a big snowball effect going into the second that resulted in an 18-0 run.”

“We put in a good effort and played a decent game,” Afula bench boss Roie Perel said. “Perhaps if we played a bit more focussed or were anole to get one or two of those small things we could have won. But Holon is a good team who has played together and they get credit for the win.”

The game MVP Justin Smith also spoke about the game, “We became stagnant offensively and we couldn’t get any stops defensively which meant we couldn’t run. In the sound half we tried to take advantage of the mismatch and keep the ball moving.”

Spencer Weisz reflected on the game, “It was a tough game for us, we came out with some energy and our zone gave them a little bit of a problem in the second quarter. But a team like Holon who have been playing together for some time and have played some games in the BCL showed. We fought hard but in Hoon it’s a tough place to win, the energy was there and a little more cohesiveness will get us over the top.”

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