The Silencer: Hickey’s cool, calm and collected as the guard leads Haifa to the promised land

Jan 15, 2023 | Holyland Hoops

Was Hapoel Haifa’s Israel State Cup win over Hapoel Holon that big of a surprise? Maybe yes, maybe no, but the last second victory certainly turned some heads and silenced one of the largest fanbases in Israel.

When the Carmel Reds came out of a timeout with 20.4 seconds left in the fourth quarter and the score all knotted up at 78-78, it was clear as day as to who was going to take the last shot for Sharon Drucker’s team. Everyone in the Holon Arena knew who was going to take the last shot as well as those watching on television.

Anthony Hickey took the inbounds pass and moved up the court under pressure. He pounded the ball once, twice, three times and then over again as he waited and waited and waited to drill the clock down to just the right moment. He dribbled the ball between his legs crossed the ball from his left hand to his right just inside the 3-point line and took an off balance deuce right over Joe Ragland that hit nothing but net to send Haifa into the Cup Final Four for the first time since 1999 with a 80-78 victory.

Anthony Hickey – Photo Credit: Yehuda Halickman

Yes, it’s been awhile and Hickey was the man to get the team there with a 24 point, 8 assist and 3 steal performance against the defending Israeli league champions.

Hickey has been one of those special players in Israel all season long putting up incredible numbers but also leading his team to key wins in the Israeli league, Europe Cup and now the State Cup. With 15.2 points, 3.7 rebounds and 6.1 assists in 23 games across all competitions, there are not many players who can match the output that Hickey has provided his team this campaign.

Haifa was able to jump out to a quick lead and took control of the game early despite playing on Holon’s home court with their rabid fans cheering and jeering every single move. But that didn’t bother Drucker’s squad as they grabbed a 42-35 lead at halftime.

Holon made their move in the third quarter as they went on an expected run but it was unexpected that it would be 20-2 to leapfrog the visitors into a 5-point, 64-59 lead after thirty minutes of end to end action.

Anthony Hickey – Photo Credit: Yehuda Halickman

It looked like that was the end of Haifa.

Hickey who up to that point had looked stellar with 21 points turned the scoring over to the rest of the team as Kadeem Allen, Ofek Avital, Devonte Upson all scored to push Haifa back into the lead. But it would be Hickey with the final three points of the game, a free throw and then the game winner who would be the difference maker at the end of the day.

“It’s sweet, but today it was Anthony who hit the big shot,” Drucker said following the game. “But we were there as a team and when we were down by five we had to calm down and get back to our basics which is what we did.”

Hickey also gave credit to the team and tried to push off any credit that was headed his way, “I’m thankful coach put me in the position to help win the game. He drew up a great play and I was able to help my team win by making that shot at the end. But the team deserves credit and the bench really did a great job as did our fans.”

Sharon Drucker – Photo Credit: Yehuda Halickman

Drucker knew from the get go that Hickey was his guy, his leader and the floor general that would take Haifa to the promised land. The point guard has scored in double digits in 9 of 12 league games and he is 5th overall in assists and 2nd in the league in steals which makes for one very, very dangerous player.

“He’s a man. The minute I saw his tape I saw a ‘Mensch’, any time we have a difference in opinion we stay together as a family. He is fun to coach, he comes to work hard and he never makes faces if he doesn’t like something. It’s just a pleasure to have him here,” the bench boss explained when asked about Hickey by The Sports Rabbi.

Hickey arrived at the start of the season and just as with any team he needed to adjust to the style of play that was expected from him by the bench boss.

“It’s about getting into the gym, getting comfortable with the guys and learning the system. I started watching film and it gave me confidence. This is why we play the game for the challenges.”

Anthony Hickey – Photo Credit: Yehuda Halickman

One of the challenges in the win over Holon was stopping Ragland who may have scored 19 points but was held to only 3 assists while turning over the ball five times. On average, the Holon guard is 8.3 assists and turning the ball over 2.7 times per game.

“It wasn’t just me,” Hickey exclaimed. “We put a lot of guys and length on him with Kadeem Allen and Amit Simhon. We tried to throw different guys on him and we tried to slow him down.”

With the victory, Haifa will now have to wait until Monday to find out who they will be facing. Nes Ziona defeated Hapoel Beer Sheva 83-79 to take one of the four semifinal spots while Hapoel Tel Aviv hosts Hapoel Jerusalem and Maccabi Tel Aviv will face Bnei Herzliya with the winners of those two games rounding out the Final Four. Haifa has had a mixed bag of results against all of the potential opponents with a 108-104 overtime loss to Maccabi Tel Aviv just last week being the most recent.

“We got to take it one game at a time and we know it won’t be easy,” Hickey said. “The good thing is it’s an opportunity and it’s one game, win or go home. We played pretty much everyone and we have to stay locked in and not be too happy. Stay humble and try to get a win.”

Anthony Hickey – Photo Credit: Yehuda Halickman

As for big time shots and where they rank in Hickey’s career he wasted no time in saying that this was numero uno on his list.

“This is the best I’d say. I hit one in college which was many years ago. That was one of my biggest shots but this was no doubt the best.”

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