Hapoel Beer Sheva stunned struggling Maccabi Tel Aviv 93-79 as Caleb Agada had a night for the ages on the court with 43 points to lead Rami Hadar’s squad to the victory. Agada scored early and often for the southern reds as Maccabi had no answers for the star guard as he sliced and diced the the Yellow & Blue defense throughout the 40 minutes in the win.
Agada has been a star all season long in the desert after joining the team during the Israeli League’s “Corona League” to end the 2019/20 season when he came over from the Spanish league’s second division. The Nigerian-Canadian is averaging 22.8 points, 6.6 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 2.4 steals per game and has arguably been the league’s best and most consistent player.
The University of Ottawa product brings it game in and game out both at home and on the road for Beer Sheva and is one of the main reasons why they are in position to take one of the final two playoff spots as the third round of league games loom around the corner next week.
Playing Maccabi Tel Aviv always brings out the best in some players and that was certainly the case for the guard he said, “Last time when we played Maccabi Tel Aviv I was really disappointed in my performance. So I told myself next time I’m not going to go out like that and the rest happened. I just played basketball and before the game people told me to be myself and I was very comfortable.”
Beer Sheva coach Rami Hadar was well aware as to the talent he found when he brought Agada over to Israel last May for the end of last season and it’s clear that he has fit like a glove with his team and teammates, “When I watched Caleb in Spain I understood he was the perfect fit for my system. He has the abilities to be a great basketball player and on the other hand he fits in my system perfectly. During the year it’s been going smooth and well with some ups and downs, but the direction is going up and I am not surprised. I expected Caleb to be a factor in this league and he is.”
It was clear that Maccabi Tel Aviv was not ready to face Caleb Agada and that the team was just simply unprepared to stop him and weren’t able to do so. Yellow & Blue coach Ioannis Sfairopoulos was straight and to the point about that very fact, “We tried to stop him. I don’t like when we allow a player to score like that. We tried to change players on him and it’s also my fault that we did not stop him.”
“They played better, they wanted the game more,” Sfairopoulos stated. “They had a player that we couldn’t stop, Agada with 43 points and they deserved to win the game as the game was in their control most of the 40 minutes. We lost this game, it’s my responsibility this loss. We continue, we are first in the league after the second round and we are ready to play the third round.”
Yellow & Blue guard Chris Jones also looked back at the team’s rough night at the office without Scottie Wilbekin and big men Ante Zizic and Othello Hunter, “Very difficult as a team, especially on planning for a tough quality team like Beer Sheva and a guy coming in scoring 40 points on the other side. It was bad for us and we have to make a lot of adjustments, close to playoff time we just must get better.”
“We tried to stop him, when you’re just feeling it, it was hard to stop. We through two different defenses on him, but we just need to be better defensively.”
It seems like the sky’s the limit for Agada and he has a very bright future ahead of him. To think that after playing in the LEB Oro no ACB team took a chance on him is just criminal. Spain had the perfect player who could possibly play for any of the top teams that also play in European competitions and they all just turned a blind eye on him. But here he is lighting up the courts all across Israel.
“I don’t know how far he can go but he can play in either of the top two leagues,” Hadar commented. However, Agada isn’t looking to far ahead at this point as he is content with his current situation whole also having some unfinished business, “I’ve got to stay in the moment and I’m not thinking about my future. We were one game out of playoffs last season and obviously I didn’t forget that.”
“We will take it game by game especially after losing against Hapoel Haifa,” Agada continued. “The expectations are the playoffs.”
Showers for Caleb Agada! pic.twitter.com/KJbG9gBVrt
— Sports Rabbi (@thesportsrabbi) April 28, 2021
Maccabi hasn’t played well over the past few games falling in Gilboa, coming very close to losing at Maccabi Haifa and now their first ever loss against Hapoel Beer Sheva. There’s a lot for Maccabi to do to make that they had into the playoffs with the correct mindset and positive play which has seemed to have escaped them lately.
“I think that when the time would come for the playoffs, we will be ready.” Sfairopoulos said. And when the important games will come we will be ready. This is for what we are working after we are out of the Euroleague.”
Jones expressed the same sentiment, “That is the goal, especially like I said when we get closer to playoffs, you want to play your best basketball. Tonight we did not show that. We need to do some re-evaluating and get it together.”
While Beer Sheva picked up their first ever win over Maccabi, Rami Hadar has been there and done that. So while it’s all fun and new for the club, it’s old hat for the bench boss, “I believe that in all of my years in Haifa I beat Maccabi at least once in every season and it’s always a great feeling. I’ve experienced it.”
Maccabi Tel Aviv’s Dragan Bender was the main man early for the Yellow-and-Blue as he scored from deep while also jamming the ball inside but Hapoel Beer Sheva’s Caleb Agada took matters into his own hands and scored 14 first quarter points to give the hosts a slim 24-22 lead.
Eric Griffin scored in the paint for Rami Hadar’s squad but Chris Jones with a floater and a triple along with another Bender dunk narrowed the Beer Sheva lead to 32-29 Griffin kept scoring and Travis Warech nailed a corner triple to give the hosts a 41-35 advantage at halftime.
Yovel Zoosman tied the game up for Ioannis Sfairopoulos’s squad with a pair of triples to get the third quarter underway, Agada put in points to regain the lead as Spencer Weisz and Angelo Caloiaro along with TJ Cline traded baskets throughout the frame as the clubs ended all tied up at 63-63 after thirty minutes of play.
Amir Bell, Griffin and Agada immediately got to work for Beer Sheva to go up 71-63 forcing Maccabi to call timeout who got quick baskets by Calaoiro and Jones but Agada once again came to the rescue to give Hadar’s team a 76-70 lead midway through the fourth quarter.
Agada kept scoring every which way as Griffin backed him up as Beer Sheva cruised to the 14 point win.
Along with Agada’s 43 points and 9 rebounds, Eric Griffin added 18 points and Spencer Weisz chipped in with 10 points in the win. Jones led the way for Maccabi with 19 points, Angelo Caloiaro scored 17 points and Dragan Bender added 14 points in the loss.
Maccabi Haifa shocked Maccabi Rishon Le’Zion 106-99 as the Greens continue to climb out of the bottom of the standings while the wine city squad continued their league struggles as it will be an uphill battle to clinch a playoff spot. Michael Cobbins scored 24 points, Kalin Lucas added 22 points and 10 assists while Devyn Marble scored 21 points in the win. Jeremy Pargo was the high scorer for Rishon with 32 points and 9 assists while Akil Mitchell notched 25 points and 10 boards in the loss.