Pressure, tension, intensity, guile and one officiating error: Maccabi and Haifa play a game that had it all

Jan 9, 2023 | Holyland Hoops

Maccabi Tel Aviv and Hapoel Haifa played a classic of game this past weekend that will go down in basketball lore for years to come. This was a game that had it all. From the Carmel Reds coming into to Yad Eliyahu with no fear and without one of their key players in Amit Simhon after having been blown out by the Yellow & Blue less than a week ago on their home court to a tremendous second half comeback by the hosts. From playing not one overtime period but to the referees wanting to make the right call which they ultimately did but was actually the wrong call.

There was pressure, there was tension, there was intensity, there was guile. The eventual 108-104 Maccabi victory had absolutely everything in it as the game went well past the bedtime of most of those in attendance, however, for the many youngsters it will be a game that they will most probably never forget.

Anthony Hickey – Photo Credit: Yehuda Halickman

The game that did not want to end and one that will be etched into the minds and consciousness of those who sat at the edge of their seats from 9pm to well past 11pm and then some.

You wanted stars? You got them. Anthony Hickey, Kadeem Allen and Devonte Upson for Sharon Drucker’s crew. Bonzie Colson and Jalen Adams for Oded Katash. Those five players did their all to try and secure the win for their team which ultimately went in favor of Maccabi with of course some ounce of controversy to go with it.

Big shot after big shot, drive to the basket after drive to basket, both teams didn’t want to lose and both wanted to win, however, there can be only one victor in a game that was the survival of the fittest.

Haifa did their homework after last week’s embarrassing defeat that saw Drucker say that his team wasn’t in the same league as Maccabi. That was most definitely not the case this time around as the bench boss knew what would cause the Yellow & Blue pain as they jumped all over a lackadaisical Maccabi to the tune of 55-41 at halftime which was just 4 points off the total that Haifa had scored in Romema.

Jalen Adams – Photo Credit: Yehuda Halickman

Katash’s team who were coming off a brutal 98-65 drubbing by Real Madrid in Euroleague play wree nowhere to be found over the first twenty minutes. But this season’s version of Maccabi is different than that of the recent past as Colson and Adams started to chip away at the advantage slowly but surely to even the contest up and send it into overtime.

They showed heart, desire and drive when the chips were down and while Katash would have preferred not having to play Colson and Adams 38 and 35 minutes respectively, he knew that he had no choice as he understood that these two players were the ones that he was going to have to live and die with down the stretch and that’s what he did.

Game plan be damned, Katash saw that this was the only way he was going to take the victory and he was going to do whatever it would take to get that W and not send home the over 6K vocal supporters with a loss.

Sure the referees made a critical error with the score 106-104 in favor of Maccabi with 12 clicks left on the clock when they went to check an out call but ended up changing the play immediately prior to the correct call when Will Rayman moved the rim and net of the basket which is an automatic deuce.

Sharon Drucker and Will Rayman – Photo Credit: Yehuda Halickman

Haifa was not happy and rightfully so as the referee association had to come out with a 7 point ruling as to how the referees made an error in making the change despite it being the right call at the end of the day.

But putting that all aside, the Yellow & Blue ended up taking the win with two of Haifa’s stars fouled out and also in a deficit situation. Could have Haifa won the game? Sure. Could they have extended it for yet another overtime period? Also possible. However, mistakes are going to be made one way or the other and at this point the referees can put out 100 statements, the result is the result and Haifa has got to move on to bigger and better things with a Europe Cup clash on Tuesday and then a State Cup knockout clash at Hapoel Holon on Saturday.

Drucker, who had said to me just days ago that his team wasn’t in the same league as Maccabi most certainly was and it would be super interesting if Haifa would have a bigger budget to operate with.

“Budget, Euroleague we are not in the same league,” Drucker expounded. “But the guys came in and we did what we needed to offensively to go up against Maccabi head to head. We played well but at the end of the day I still feel awful and we leave here without the points and with a Europe Cup match coming up. We will do it though, we are doing well in Europe but we still have to play a bit better in the league.”

Oded Katash – Photo Credit: Yehuda Halickman

Katash who was clearly shell shocked and disappointed in what transpired, would have been much happier had his team come out to play from the get go and not have to rely on Colson and Adams to pull the team out of the fire.

“I didn’t like how we played and how we came into the game, but I don’t take anything for granted, no win is taken for granted. They came into the second half and played like it was a Euroleague game. It’s not simple to play in this game and it’s was just crazy, I told the players that we didn’t come into the game as we should have. This didn’t do us good for sure ahead of the Euroleague.”

As for what lesson he took himself, Katash said there was plenty, “Many mental things and things I didn’t experience and didn’t know occurred in this game. It’s looking at the players in the eyes in the lockerroom and hopefully we can fix these types of issues for the next time so it won’t happen again. It’s hard to be happy but I have to give credit to the players. They were embarrassed at halftime and they knew that they didn’t come in ready to play from what went on in the first half.”

Bonzie Colson – Photo Credit: Yehuda Halickman

Bonzie Colson who hadn’t quite experienced such a game in his career spoke about the issues the team had coming into the game quite sluggish, “We didn’t come out with energy, executing on offense and if we don’t do that, we dug a hole for ourselves. We have to have a great start. As for the game, I love the game and that’s why we are all here, it doesn’t matter if it’s two overtime or six it’s about giving it our all. They tested our character and we bounced back to get the win.”

While Maccabi bounced back against Haifa, they will now prepare for a Euroleague tilt against Partizan Belgrade with Yam Madar and ex-Yellow & Blue forward James Nunnally who unceremoniously departed at the end of the last season. It’s fairly clear how the fans will respond to their presence as the second round opens up, the question is how will Maccabi?

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