It’s not every week where you see two Israeli teams have success in Europe, but this was one of them as both Hapoel Jerusalem and Hapoel Holon notched important if not critical Basketball Champions League victories.
Holon for one went into Turkey with their backs against the wall in a must win game at Besiktas under their brand new head coach Guy Goodes who was just installed as bench boss earlier in the week. Goodes and his purple people eaters couldn’t have gotten off to a worse start finding themselves inn a huge 26-13 hole after the first frame, but slowly and surely, Adam Smith, Chris Johnson, Joe Ragland and company began to cut into the advantage.
With the score at 70-68 in favor of Besiktas with 28 seconds left following a lay-up by Kenan Sipahi, Goodes inserted veteran marksman Guy Pnini with the obvious goal of making sure to get the Israeli international the ball and work his magic. And lo and behold, that is exactly what happened.
Ragland handed the ball off to Pnini on the right side of the arc and set up for a wide open triple which he drained as he always does put Holon in the lead for good and take a 72-70 win. Quite amazing.
How many times have we seen Pnini drill that clutch 3-pointer when his team needs it most. he is like the gift that just gives on giving.
— Basketball Champions League (@BasketballCL) January 12, 2022
With his team in a do or die situation, Pnini at the tender age of 38 years old once again saved the day and saved his new/old coach when it looked like Holon’s fate was sealed for good and doomed to be done in Europe.
However, now Holon has a new lease on life and a chance to make amends for their game one home loss in which Isaiah Whitehead did as he pleased down the stretch to win a game that they really had no business winning.
But that could have also been said of Holon in game two and it looked right from the outset that they really had no business winning. But they did and that was once again all thanks to Pnini.
Unfortunately it was reported that Pnini had some colorful language for the Besiktas bench area as one of the Turkish team’s management told The Sports Rabbi, “How are you going to go into Israel now? I will ask my police friends to make you wait and do the worst things possible to you.” with laughter…
At the post game press conference, Goodes referenced the incident, “You should give respect to your opponent. I apologize to the staff and players. He should not do that I apologize for it.”
Hopefully, for Holon and Pnini’s sake that will not light them up as they ready for the decisive game three on Wednesday night in Israel. That would be the worst thing that could come out of the happening.
Over in the capital city and in front of Michael Davis, the Riverdale, NY resident who now has the controlling interest of the club, Jerusalem made Besiktas’s start against Holon look like absolute child’s play. The Reds hit shot after shot after shot to grab a crazy 22-3 lead and never looked back as they cruised to a 25 point, 95-70 win which could have easily been 50 points should they have tried just a bit. This game was well done before it ever made it to the BBQ.
Yotam Halperin’s team rained 3-pointers galore thanks to Jalen Adams and Adam Ariel from the get go and they never took their foot off of the pedal in making Prometey’s life a misery and their Israeli coach Ronen “Neno” Ginzburg’s job that much harder as they series now moves to the Ukraine where the teams will meet in game two on Tuesday.
Adam Ariel who went 6/8 from beyond the arc has been terrific of late as the Reds captain is becoming more and more like Holon’s Guy Pnini. His 3-point shooting is just absolutely lethal he is perhaps playing some of his best basketball of late and the fact that it is on the European level makes it all that more enticing for the future.
Halperin who knows a ting or two about shooting understands how crucial Ariel’s contributions are to the team’s success and it’s not just when he dials up long distance, “Adam doesn’t surprise me. He does two things at a very high level and that is why he plays at Hapoel Jerusalem.”
Game two will no doubt be a more difficult contest for the Reds as Prometey will come out at home looking to make amends for a disastrous performance. But in the other corner Jerusalem will look to improve on their showing explained Su Braimoh, “We got some good looks early and we just rode the wave. Credit to the guys who came locked in but we got to go back to the drawing board. We made a lot of mistakes and we have got to be ready. They will come locked in but if we improve on today we can win the next game. I feel like we are building something good here. Hopefully this is the first of many.”
Retin Obasohan echoed his teammates thoughts as they prepare to head on the road and take care of business, “I’m proud of the way we came out. We were able to do that. Being focused hitting first especially with the team that they got, you got to make sure you are the aggressor. Doing the things we need to do in order to win. The main message for us is to stay humble and stay hungry.”
Ginzburg was confident that his team will be a much different challenge for Jerusalem, “This was not our team and I hope we will see our team next week. It’s good that this is just the first half. The players will watch the video and we will analyze the issues.”
Knowing Jerusalem, they will certainly not be “friars” or suckers in English. They will be ready to go with a clear and defined mission in the Ukraine next Tuesday. While Prometey will have a league game before game two, Jerusalem’s State Cup clash at Hapoel Tel Aviv that was originally scheduled for Saturday night has been postponed due to COVID issues on the hosts.
Should there be a game three, that will tentatively take place on Thursday night at the Arena and while Jerusalem brass has said all the right things about this being a long series and they are expecting a totally different team in game two, there is no doubt that Halperin and his team would like to finish this series off ASAP and not risk a third game to see if they cane get into the Round of 16 group stage.