Special Team: Colson looks for Double Week sweep following Maccabi Tel Aviv’s win over Monaco

Jan 3, 2024 | Holyland Hoops

Maccabi Tel Aviv took the rematch with Monaco personal and came away with almost a complete 93-83 victory at their temporary home in Belgrade. It was almost an end to end dominating performance by Oded Katash’s squad led by Bonzie Colson with 27 points save for a hiccup in the third quarter that saw unheralded Rafi Menco step up with a trio of triples as Mike James and Co. pulled to within just 4-points.

The bench boss could not have been happier to begin a stretch of 4 Euroleague games in 11 days with a victory and one that reflected the versatility of the squad that has seen numerous players having the chance to show their wares on the top continental stage. This was especially true in a win over a team that they have developed quite a rivalry with since the best-of-five quarterfinal series last season.

However, this time around Maccabi came out flying from the get go and Monaco looked to have still been dealing with a New Year’s hangover to the dismay of their coach Sasa Obradovic who was certainly not thrilled with his charges.

Wade Baldwin – Credit: Dragan Tesic and Djordje Kostic

“We started the game aggressively, which is actually Monaco’s strength,” Wade Baldwin said following the game. “We have played against them many times and we know that they have good and aggressive players and we wanted to be on the winning side of the aggressiveness.”

Menco also spoke about the getting the W to get 2024 off and running, “We are very happy for this victory to start the second round on the right foot, I think that our togetherness is what won the game and it is important that we continue with that. ⁠Monaco is a very dangerous team with many tools, everyone sacrificed and showed great commitment and credit goes to the coaching staff for the game plan.”

“They deserved to win and from the beginning they wanted to play better and more than us,” a disappointed Monaco head coach Sasa Obradovic said. “If you don’t have the emotions it’s very hard. We missed our toughness and we weren’t aggressive. We allowed them to get 15 points from offensive rebounds without resistance so it’s hard for any team in that situation. This was 100% lack of focus and attitude.”

Wade Baldwin – Credit: Dragan Tesic and Djordje Kostic

Sure, Mike James is always going to start to score and score and score some more which was the case after a fairly quiet first half to drill down the lead, but there was the Israeli sharpshooter Rafi Menco to save the day by bumping the score back up with three 3’s to 10-points by the end of the third quarter. If Menco had not have scored his 9 points in that third period, the yellow-and-blue would have entered the final frame up by just a lone point and plenty of doubts as well.

“It’s fun that I was able to help the team,” a modest Menco said. “In general I feel good and I know how I can contribute to the team. I hope that we were able to give a little comfort to the people of Israel during a difficult time for all of us.”

Wade Baldwin also commented on not only Menco’s game but also about another player who is really coming into his own, “We played excellent defense, many players stepped up, Rafi Menco helped us a lot with three 3-pointers and great defense, Bonzie Colson probably played his best game ever.”

On a night that Maccabi went a solid 11/24 (45.8%) from beyond the arc and while Menco made a significant contribution in the win, it was Colson who put on a tremendous show with 27 points and 34 PIR in dominating fashion.

The Notre Dame product was there yet again to pace Katash’s crew as Lorenzo Brown and Baldwin each dropped 12 points each and combined for 8 rebounds, 11 assists and just 3 turnovers in what the bench boss looked at as having been one terrific showing across the board.

“This is what Bonzie does and when he gets to his points like he did in this game, that is because the team played properly,” Katash said.

Bonzie Colson – Photo Credit: Euroleague

Colson didn’t want the accolades thrown his modest way, “I just wanted to play solid. I thought we played tremendously as a group on the defensive end and I think that is what won us the game. Offensively we moved the ball and we came ready to play from the jump. When we do that we are a special group.”

Maccabi is no question developing into a special group that has had to deal with plenty of challenges along the way this season as Baldwin explained, “Our team is facing something that no other team is facing this year and we have developed team resilience. We compete well despite everything. I’m not worried about 4 games in 11 days, we knew how to cope with every challenge that comes our way and we will continue to push until the end.”

But Katash is also cautious as Maccabi heads into this tricky stretch of games that will see his team play in Lithuiania against Fenerbahce which will be followed up by contests against Bologna and Partizan Belgrade in Serbia.

Maccabi Tel Aviv – Credit: Dragan Tesic and Djordje Kostic

“In a double week the second game is always different and perhaps we will need to split the effort with the players due to rest but we will see when we recover and then we have a big game on Thursday. A road game against Fenerbahce is tough and they made some changes, anything can happen in the second game of a double week, we will have another trip to Lithuania and we will prepare and get ready for the game. We have some very tough games coming up, we can’t give up on any game and it will rely on our defense.”

As we have seen with Maccabi this season, despite the challenges that the club has faced since October 7th, it takes a unique group to stay together and find a way to reach the pinnacle of their sport which is something that Colson has experienced over the past few months.

“Special teams get these wins in a double week and we believe that we are one of the special teams so we will lock in and get the win on Thursday against Fenerbahce.”

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