Israel Basketball Final Four!

May 26, 2010 | The Pulpit

The Sports Rabbi made his way to Tel Aviv last night for the Israel Basketball League Final Four semi-final matches.

The first contest tipped off at 6pm and featured Hapoel Jerusalem and Hapoel Galil/Gilboa in a battle of the red jerseys. I viewed this matchup as almost a toss up, but giving the edge to Galil since I felt they had the better coach in Oded Katash (almost a NY Knick before the lock out in 1999 and an injury robbed him of his game at such a young age). Jerusalem has been coached by Guy Goodes the past few seasons and has always seemed to choke it up in the most opportune moments.

I was not let down.

Jerusalem played a strong 1st half and was up 41-35 at the break sending the confident Jerusalem fans to the bathrooms with the feeling that hey, we might just make it into the Finals. Boy were they disappointed. Katash sent his men out and played suffocating defense in the 3rd quarter outscoring Jerusalem 23-11 and go up by 6 heading into the final frame. Galil pulled away a little more and then the game became a foul fest with free throw after free throw with Galil finally taking the game 79-69.

I came away with a few thoughts from this game.

What shocked me most was the ineffective use of Jerusalem coach Guy Goodes bench. Goodes has been known in the past for keeping a short bence but that same problem helped oust the team last year and the year prior. In the Israel Basketball League you must have 2 Israelis on the court at all times, unlike when they play in Europe when they do not have this restriction. Goodes relied heavily on only two Israelis Yuval Naimi and Yogev Ohayon for much of the game and the season with very little use of others such as Sharon Sasson and Uri Kokia, both of whom are not great talents. Oded Katash in my opinion is a master on the sidelines and had 4 Israelis in his rotation, Guy Mekel, Guni Israeli, Dagan Yivzori and Elishay Kadir and outscored Jerusalem’s Israelis 36-19. It seems that Guy still has not learned the lesson and will now be finding other employment.

Secondly, the two teams shot a combined 61 free throws and only hit 33 of them for 54% from the line. How is it possible that these 2 teams which never played more than 2 games a week all season long don’t practice their free throws? These are FREE POINTS to be had and they missed 46% (!) of them!!! It was painful to watch the last couple of minutes because almost every shot went off the rim, slammed against the backboard, airballed curled in and out of the basket. It was very very very painful!

Thirdly, there was a father and son who had been sitting in front of me rooting for Jerusalem to win. After the game the boy about 9 years old burst out into tears and became hysterical crying his eyes out because of another crushing defeat. I hate to say it but this has been the history of this franchise and they should have known better.

Yes I used to support my hometown team Jerusalem, but after a few years of frustration seeing that I was never going to win, specifically after a last second buzzer beater by Jamie Arnold from Maccabi Tel Aviv in the 2007 finals I switched allegiances. I said enough losses, enough poor play and execution, it was time for me to support a real team and moved mine and my son’s loyalty to Maccabi Tel Aviv. I couldn’t take it anymore (I will get into more details at a later date) and wanted to see the best players, games and competitions that Israel can offer and Maccabi was the ticket.

It was enough painful defeats, and enough tears as for years and years I supported the Montreal Expos Baseball Club, and year after year, my heart was broken. I vowed not to let my son have this same experience, and so far so good. Tel Aviv takes on Galil in the Final Thursday night and awaits to capture yet another domestic title. Only their former player and coach Oded Katash stands in their way.

Thoughts from the Pulpit

1) Maccabi Tel Aviv beat up Maccabi Netanya in a blow out 104-78. I could have left about midway through the 2nd quarter, but decided to see how badly Netanya, a team that had defeated Tel Aviv earlier in the season would lose by.

2) The Sports Rabbi will be on the Rusty Mike Radio Sports show tonight from 8-10pm Israeli time or 1-3pm NY Time

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