Hapoel Tel Aviv defeated Reyer Venice 97-81 as the Reds took the victory in the shadow of the war to move to 2-0 in EuroCup play. Head Coach Danny Franco’s team came out sluggish which was expected after a two week break due to the Hamas attacks on Israel, but Tomer Ginat helped ignite the visitors as the first half came to an end as the Israeli led the way with five Hapoel players finishing the contest in doubt digits.
Ginat scored 21 points, Jaylen Hoard added 19 points, Xavier Munford scored 15 points while Braian Angola and Bar Timor chipped in with 12 points a piece in the win. Barry Brown paced Venice with 23 points, Rayjon Tucker added 20 points and Kyle Wiltjer scored 13 points in the loss.
“I am overwhelmed with the commitment that the players showed today,” Franco said following the game. “It wasn’t the team that we can be, but under the circumstances it was a huge win for us. If we gave some pride to people back home, then we did our job.”
The bench boss continued, “I can’t say that there is great joy here, for sure we are content but we know what has occurred. I am proud of the guys, It was strange to go out and play and I am happy that we were able to overcome some of the tough minutes where we lost focus.”
Franco also spoke about the difficulty in preparing for the game, “The past number of days have not been the usual so to speak. We were here for a couple of days and didn’t have a great amount of preparation but we do have a lot of responsibility for our fans, those who have died and those we have been to their funerals but it’s hard to talk about it.”
“We are watching the news and we know what is going on, it’s a very tough time. We are here for all of the fans and families who are in teh army or at home. We have received some many videos of support and we are thinking about all of those who were murdered, kidnapped and are injured.”
Tomer Ginat, who was the MVP of the game also reflected on the win after the horrible tragedy that befell the nation, “For the first time in as long as I can remember, I came into a game with no desire for basketball. We all felt that there were more important things, our thoughts are back in Israel with the soldiers as well as the families of the murdered, kidnapped and wounded.”
“We took to the court to play for them and for anyone who for two hours of basketball on TV would make them feel a little bit better. The win today is undoubtedly the most satisfying win that there is. Over the past ten days we have been going between hospitals and funerals, visiting the wounded, comforting families and our biggest hope is that today’s victory made everyone feel a little better during these terrible days. And one more thing. Am Yisrael Chai!”
Rayon Tucker got busy early for Venice as they grabbed a 14-7 lead midway through the first quarter but a triple by Xavier Munford, layups by J’Covan Brown and Tomer Ginat off a steal, plus buckets by Braian Angola and Bar Timor gave Hapoel Tel Aviv a 11-0 run. However, buckets by Kyle Wiltjer and Tamir Simms gave the hosts a slim 21-20 lead after ten minutes of play.
Wiltjer kept scoring for Neven Spahija’s team to begin the second quarter while Barry Brown dropped a pair of 3-pointers, Ginat, Tomer Zalmanson and Jaylen Hoard all tried to keep Danny Franco’s team close as John Holland making his debut put down a dunk and then added a 3-point play to send Hapoel into halftime up 41-40.
Brown put Venice back in the lead as the third quarter got underway, triples by Xavier Munford and Timor countered for Hapoel but a Marco Spissou 3-pointer pulled the hosts even at 50-50 midway through the period. Brown and Munford traded shots from deep, Ginat scored from the inside and outside, Jordan Parks and Tucker answered but a triple by Timor handed the reds a 68-64 lead after thirty minutes of action.
Munford, Holland and Hoard kept filling the basket to begin the fourth quarter for Hapoel, Brown and Tucker once again tried to keep Venice relevant, but Ginat came back with yet more points while Angola fed Hoard for an alley-oop as the forward added another jam to wrap up the victory.