Van Vliet scores in the clutch on Belgium Heritage Night to help Herzliya to the win

Nov 16, 2021 | Holyland Hoops

A little bit of North America came to Herzliya this week. For the first time ever the Israel Premier League and one of its clubs held a special “Heritage” and in this case, Bnei Herzliya put on an elaborate “Belgium Heritage Night” on the evening they played against Hapoel Jerusalem as each squad featured a Belgium player in Andy Van Vliet for the hosts and Retin Obasohan for the Reds. Both players will also play for the Belgium National Team with games coming up in less than two weeks in World Cup qualifying.

Prior to tipoff, Belgium Ambassador to Israel Jean-Luc Bodson was honored while a local school orchestra performed both the Belgium National Anthem as well as Israel’s National Anthem, HaTikva.

Photo Credit: Bnei Herzliya

With a fabulous atmosphere surrounding the event, Herzliya took the upper hand from the get go and as Jerusalem interim coach Yotam Halperin said the game was already won by the hosts in the first half as they chalked up a 85-79 win.

Chris Babb was unstoppable from the outset for Herzliya while Chinanu Onuaku and Quinton Hooker scored important baskets throughout the clash. While Obasohan tried in vain to keep Jerusalem afloat with 19 points and 7 rebounds, it was Van Vliet who drilled home a pair of crucial triples late in the final frame to wrap up the victory for Oren Aharoni’s squad.

“He’s a very important player for us,” the winning coach began. “He really did a lot of great things for us near the end of the game. Jerusalem went to a small lineup and he made the big shots.”

Andy Van Vliet – Photo Credit:

Van Vliet who finished the night with 16 points and 8 rebounds went 7/11 from the field and was coined by General Manager Zufer Avdija (yes, the father of Deni) over the summer as a similar player to the great Toni Kukoc.

The Belgian’s performance was also admired by both his teammates and rivals as Quinton Hooker knows the importance of a player like Van Vliet, “He does what he does, he makes shots and makes plays. He’s hit big shots in earlier games for us too and it was all of us playing for each other and the crowd. Being that it was Belgium night it was great for him.”

His Belgium National Team teammate Retin Obasohan spoke about the 26-year old’s bright future after arriving in Israel following a season in the Lithuanian League.

Retin Obasohan and Andy Van Vliet – Photo Credit:

“Andy is my brother as we are from the same city and we play on the National team together. I’m excited for his upside and he really showcased it today playing in and out, putting it on the floor, making good passes and shooting 3’s as well as taking advantage of the mismatches in the post. He is a versatile player and I believe in his upside and I think the sky’s the limit for him.”

In fact, the sky’s the limit for Herzliya as they have impressed many around the league with their tough play, however, coach Aharoni’s squad may need a bit more depth in order to compete with the big boys later on in the season.

“We were playing without Shawn Dawson who was injured and that is why I started Dori Sahar who I hope we will see dividends later on. We are also working with Sandy Cohen and I have faith in both of them. I want us to continue being a hard working club that can win every week in this tight and tough league.”

While Herzliya may have beaten an incomplete team in Jerusalem who need to make some serious changes to their poorly constructed roster, they were dismantled a couple of weeks ago by Maccabi Tel Aviv. However, Hooker feels that there was a missing ingredient to their play against the Yellow & Blue, “We came out flat against Maccabi and we let them be the aggressor whereas tonight we imposed out will and I think that is what is going to be the difference maker for us this year.”

Despite falling to Herzliya, Obasohan was very appreciative to everyone involved who put the special evening together, “I want to say thank you to the Winner League and everyone involved in setting this up. This was a very special moment and I never experienced anything like that where I am in a foreign country and have my own country appreciated, welcomed and celebrated like that. It was special.”

Retin Obasohan – Photo Credit:

However, sports are a results driven business coming down to wins and losses he explained, “A basketball game is a 40 minute ball game. That is something we need to learn from as this game isn’t won in the first, second or third quarter and you have to play the full game. You can’t win otherwise. This is a hard lesson we have to take.”

“You got to battle with the guys you have and all you need is all you got. You have to give it all with all your heart. I believe in the guys in the lockerroom and I believe in our front office and our coaches. I believe that with who we have we were more than capable of winning the game. I am not one to make up excuses. We didn’t show up and we didn’t play our best basketball and that is reflected in the score.”

Andy Van Vliet – Photo Credit:

Willy Workman knows that there are no easy roads to success for Jerusalem and they just have to working hard while reflecting on what Halperin brings to the team, “There are no big magic secrets in basketball. Tomorrow we got practice, we will wake up have a cup of coffee and work hard, work with enthusiasm and be grateful that we play basketball. He’s a player’s coach and he played the game for so long there is no situation that he didn’t experience as a player so he can relate to everything we go through. I wish we could have gotten him the win tonight.”

But on a night that saw a real celebration of culture and sports, Hooker recognized what the real impact that was being made on the community at large was, “It’s amazing to play in such a great atmosphere. The crowd is amazing and you see the young faces here wearing our jerseys. It is just a fun environment, we played hard as a team and we came out to the win.”

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