Shooting for the stars: Holon makes history by pulling off the impossible to punch ticket to BCL Final 4

Apr 13, 2022 | Holyland Hoops

Who would have thunk it?

Who would have believed it?

Who would have imagined it?

The truth is not many people in the basketball world would have dreamed that in a million years Hapoel Holon would be heading to the Basketball Champions League Final Four.

But yet Holon are and with authority after defeating Strasbourg 81-80 to sweep the two game series. But the truth is, it’s not so much the incredible 14 point halftime deficit that they had to overcome in this game, it really began long, long ago after coach Maurizio Buscaglia was let go by management with Holon in a 0-1 series hole against Besiktas.

The Turkish squad came to Israel and went home with a 73-72 win and a 1-0 series lead and it looked as if that Holon was headed to a very disappointing Champions League campaign by being knocked out of the Round of 16 Group Stage Play-In Playoff series.

But lo and behold, the Purple brain trust brought in Guy Goodes to replace Buscaglia and off they went to Istanbul for a do or die game two.

Guy Pnini – Photo Credit: BCL

With the score 70-68 in favor of the hosts, captain Guy Pnini drilled home a triple with just 18 seconds left to send the series to a decisive third game that Holon won on their home court 74-68 and punch their ticket to the Round of 16 group stage.

Without the wily old veteran’s big time shot, Holon’s continental campaign would have probably been in the rear view mirror.

“It’s a very exciting moment for this club,” Pnini said with a huge smile on his face at the press conference after the Strasbourg win. “This is my 5th season with the club and we started a process when we joined the BCL. It was tough in the beginning but last year we made it to the Top 8 and it was a very big thing for us. We lost in the quarterfinals and now we made history for the club. Everyone around the team is so excited, management, players and coaches. We all know how big this is for us. The game was two halves, the first was bad and the second we came back. But for us we made history.”

Holon celebrating – Photo Credit: BCL

Goodes also couldn’t contain his excitement following the win, “Guy the captain is 38 years old. I know him for many years and we won a European championship with Maccabi Tel Aviv. If he didn’t make the shot in the Play In game against Besiktas we wouldn’t be sitting here and probably we would be at home. Credit to this “young” guy.”

It’s quite amazing how the stars all aligned just perfectly since January for Holon as they now can dream about winning a European title in the city of Bilbao, Spain.

But to make sure Holon didn’t need to come back home and have to play a do or die game three, they had to wipe out a massive 14-point, 49-35 deficit. They did so going step by step over the course of an incredible third quarter display in which they outscored Strasbourg 27-12 to take a 62-61 lead into the final frame.

Guy Goodes – Photo Credit: BCL

“Strasbourg played unbelievable in the first half and were very aggressive for any action we did,” Goodes said. “At halftime I looked at the stats and I said that we are far, far, far away from our targets. I told them that if we don’t match their aggressiveness we will lose by 15-20 or even 30 points. But I am happy that we did it in the third quarter and won that by 15 points and we kept cutting the gap.”

“I told the players at halftime to chill out as they were a bit nervous as to what to do. I said relax, start on defense and possession by possession start to cut the gap. It’s starts there. You can’t cut a lead that size with the snap of a finger. We started the third quarter with a 3-pointer and then a 3-point play and we did it step to step. When we cut the gap our confidence came back and Joe Ragland made some big shots, winning shots. It’s not the coach in these situations, players make plays. Big players make shots, I was a player but I can’t take a shot. I can’t shoot anymore. They made the shots and made the right decisions.”

Winning shots are exactly what Joe Ragland made right down the stretch when he took the bull by the horns and made sure that Holon was going to win the game. After Tyrus McGee had a brilliant third quarter it was Ragland’s turn to shine explained Pnini.

“Coach said at halftime to match their aggressiveness and we plays hard, step by step we came back and at the end Joe made a couple of big plays with a lot of character to win the game.”

The dynamic duo were so good, it was hard for Strasbourg coach Lassi Tuovi not to mention them as being the key to the game, “We showed that we could challenge them but in the second half they showed why they are beating all of the teams, they are very confident. It was a tough and physical game, we lost by a point and we respect that. I have to credit McGee and Ragland as I thought we had them but somehow they were able to swim out of it and they won the game.”

Matt Mitchell and Chris Johnson – Photo Credit: BCL

Matt Mitchell, who had a stellar showing for the hosts also reflected on the game and how he came up a bit short with his final chance of the contest to snatch the win away from Holon.

“We came out flat after halftime and didn’t pressure them like we did in the first half, we didn’t make them work as hard and credit to McGee who hit a lot of tough shots. There are guys that can step up and make big shots, I missed it but I can tell you I’ll be working on that shot for a very long time. I do believe that we left everything out on the court and you never want to go home 0-2.”

Lassi Tuovi – Photo Credit: BCL

“Ragland has missed many of those shots in his career. But he made it today because of those misses. You need to take the pain to become stronger, he will be on the highlights like Ragland very soon,” Tuovi said of Mitchell’s last gasp miss.

Now it’s onto Bilbao where Holon will tip-off against Spanish powerhouse Tenerife in the one of the two semifinals matchups which will take place on May 6th. It’s a massive, massive accomplishment without a doubt and Goodes knows how much this means to the fans, “We are going through some tough times in Israel right now with terror attacks but I am happy for Holon and the fans who are at home watching on TV and are probably jumping up and down and celebrating. My players showed big character as the game was really 90% for Strasbourg but they found a way to come back and I am really so proud of them.”

“We aren’t talking too much about Bilbao right now as we have time until the games in May. We are fighting for position in the Israeli league so there are no days off. I told the guys to go celebrate as we have a long trip back. We want to come to Bilbao and not just show up, we want to go all the way if we can.”

Joe Ragland – Photo Credit: BCL

Sign up for our newsletter


You may also like…

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates. 

You have Successfully Subscribed!