“I always believe in my shot” Adam Ariel sums up a crazy Israeli Classico that had it all including the silent treatment

There will be thousands of Jerusalem fans that will say they witnessed one of the craziest, weirdest and nuttiest games in club history that saw Adam Ariel slay Maccabi Tel Aviv with one of his 3-pointers as time expired. However, in reality there were not more than 2,200 people in the Arena to witness one of the strangest Israeli Classico’s in the history of the series.

Scottie Wilbekin – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

Scottie Wilbekin looked to have put the finishing touches on yet another win for Maccabi Tel Aviv as the star guard scored a 3-pointer with under 24 clicks of the click left in the game to give the Yellow & Blue a 82-79 lead. Wilbekin who looks to be having a great time on the court since the resumption of league play after Hamas launched thousands of rockets indiscriminately at Israel, turned to the crowd, put his finger to his mouth to silence the fans and was slapped with a technical for his efforts.

A T? Now? For what? Hold On! Didn’t Atlanta Hawks superstar Trae Young do that to the New York Knicks just the night before at MSG?

Fast forward to 0.7 seconds left in the game when the ultimate triple winner Adam Ariel did it yet again, score a killer 3-pointer at the death to give his team the victory. He did it against Jerusalem with Maccabi Rishon Le’Zion in the league semifinals last season and this time he did it for the Reds to snatch the win from the jaws of defeat.

Ariel silenced Wilbekin, the Maccabi fans and the rest of the team with his dagger 3 and walked off as a hero in front of the home crowd. An incredible shot once again. But why is it that the referees needed to insert themselves into the thick of things and determine a game that had gotten off to a bad start from the get go.

Adam Ariel – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

For good hour prior to the 9pm tipoff Jerusalem Arena personnel worked on the game clock above one of the baskets to try and get it to work to no avail. They kept working on it and working on it and working on it. 9pm came and went as did 9:15 and 9:30 until the game finally got underway at 9:50 with a less than perfect solution as a 24 second clock ran around the ring between the lower and upper bowls of the facility.

Not exactly how you wanted to start off the Classico that already looked like it was something from years in the past, perhaps at the old Malha Arena.

Add to the fact that the Reds were playing with a makeshift roster after four of the club’s Americans left due to the security situation, made the game a massive challenge for them and an even more amazing accomplishment.

Ioannis Sfairopoulos – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

Sure, Maccabi Tel Aviv and coach Ioannis Sfairopoulos didn’t need the win, but who plays a game to lose? As the bench boss pointed out in the post game press conference after congratulating Jerusalem for the win, “We finished in first place by three games and now we have to be ready for Thursday’s Cup game.” (If the Cup game will actually take place is a whole otters story…)

Did Maccabi want to win? Certainly. Did they deserve to win? Perhaps not. “Defensively we were not good,” Sfairopoulos said. “We allowed a lot of easy points. We said at halftime that we had to play better defense and that is what we did and we took a big lead to begin the 3rd quarter. But we relaxed and Jerusalem hit a lot of very big shots. For sure we need to learn from the game and be more ready to play better defense.”

Adam Ariel – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

As for Ariel’s winner, Oz Blayzer who was charged with covering his former Rishon teammate on the final play of the game went flying as he tripped all over the place to keep up with the sharpshooter which allowed him to set up for the perfect winner. Just seconds before when he was covered, his shot clanged off of the iron but this time unguarded it went swish right through the net perfectly.

“I always believe in my shot that usually goes in,” Ariel said. “Even in a game like this where my shot wasn’t falling I still believed. I always believe in myself and I always behoove that I will get the ball and do the right thing. I’ve done it so many times and practiced it so much that when it comes to these moments I can do it naturally and have total faith that the ball will go in.”

Yonatan Alon – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

Jerusalem won’t be a favorite against any opponent who finishes in 3rd place as three teams are vying to end up in that spot to face the Reds who will enter the postseason in third place. The win over Maccabi will certainly give Yonatan Alon’s squad a bit of hope and that’s a good thing as they begin the playoffs next week against either Hapoel Holon, Hapoel Eilat or Hapoel Gilboa Galil. All three believe that Jerusalem will be an easy out. “They should all have a lot of luck,” Alon said when asked about being a “wanted” club. “We need to know how to play with what we have, make as few mistakes as possible and work through the game as best as we can to do as much as we can on the court.”

“It starts with the fans and the work that the staff puts in all season long, we all wanted to win so much and we deserved it after all that we’ve been through. There are players here that have huge hearts and put in so much,” concluded Alon.

Scottie Wilbekin – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

As Maccabi showered and packed up to go, Scottie Wilbekin went off on Twitter about what went on as the game came to a stunning conclusion. He wasn’t happy to say the least. But perhaps Angelo Caloiaro put it best as it was past midnight and Cinderella had to get home. “They got clock issue here. It’s past our bedtime.”

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