Hapoel Holon had an excellent European campaign in the Basketball Champions League as they maneuvered though two tough groups to advance to the Final 8 in Nizhny Novgorod. Despite losing to San Pablo Burgos 86-77 in the quarterfinals, they have much to be proud of.
For the first time in the club’s history Holon made it to final stages of the competition after just missing out a number of times and for that coach Stefanos Dedas deserves a ton of credit. Not only for taking the squad all the way to Russia, but for also building a dynamic team that was just a blast to watch as they played entertaining basketball all season long with their five and out style of offense.
The Holon attack has flustered and frustrated many a team this year as there always seems to be an open man just waiting to stick the dagger in from beyond the arc. Whether it’s the corner, the elbow or just from dead center, everyone on the roster can hit from any location on the court which provides the team a huge advantage.
“They are a tough team and they don’t play a direct type of basketball.” Burgos MVP Vitor Benite said following the game. “They can play 1-on-1, share the ball and can make threes.”
But luckily for the ACB squad they are able to make the correct moves to adapt to Holon’s unique style and begin to take over the momentum during the third quarter as they rolled to the win.
“The game plan worked in the first 25 minutes,” Dedas said. “But we had some foul trouble and they called hand check fouls on us and not in them.”
Holon’s team has a nice mix of veterans and younger up and coming players, but the captain, Guy Pnini at 37-years of age can still hit the big shot which he did during the game. But he also saw how Burgos was able to find a way to adjust and shut down Holon after taking a 39-35 into halftime.
“Burgos deserved to win and we came into the game prepared. Our plan worked well in the first half. They adjusted in the second half and they made their run and we didn’t react.”
Benite along with veteran guard Alex Renfroe sliced and diced the Holon defense and were able to pretty much do as they pleased over the final twenty minutes explained Isaiah Miles who led the Israeli team with 23 points, “They did a really good job adapting to our offense, clogging the paint and they utilized their screens really well.”
Perhaps the referees played a part in the loss as Dedas claimed following the game after the zebras called 27 fouls on Holon to the 20 on Burgos while sending the Spaniards to the line 30 times compared to 16 for the Israelis.
“I was given two technicals in ten seconds without reason. I have a complaint about the referees because they weren’t prepared for Benite, McFadden and Cook, the floppy situation, they were not prepared, I didn’t deserve to be ejected,” he said.
However, Miles looked inward at what Holon could have done better, “We ran out of gas at the end including myself. We lost the tenacity from the first half. We have a really special team, tip of the hat to Burgos but we didn’t put it all out there tonight.”
“We are very proud as to the journey we made in Europe this season,” Dedas commented. “It was a huge accomplishment to get to the Final 8. We wanted to advance to the next round but we faced a very good team. That’s sports, there is a winner and loser.”
At the end of the day, Dedas was very content as to how his team played in the Champions League and maybe, just maybe Holon will move competitions to the EuroCup as the bench boss alluded. Or perhaps he was still blowing off steam from a disappointing defeat.
“We did a great job in the BCL and were one of the best teams. I am proud of my players. I hope we will be here next year and we will see which competition we will play in next year.”
Holon has a lot to be proud of this year, especially one that was extremely successful in Europe with tons of COVID-19 challenges surrounding it. They surprised many who didn’t believe that they could succeed in playing the style of basketball they do, but they have succeeded and have much to be excited for as they still have the Israeli title to play for.