With the shadow of war hanging over Maccabi Tel Aviv due to the Hamas terrorists who slaughtered over 1,400 Israelis by the communities on the Gaza periphery, the yellow-and-blue took to the court in Valencia but came up short fell 75-66 to the hosts.
The contest in Spain which was originally supposed to be played in Israel but was switched due to the security situation started off well for head coach Oded Katash’s squad but very quickly went south. Following a moment of silence for the victims of the Hamas attacks, Alex Mumbru’s team used a well balanced offensive coupled with a Maccabi side who were led by Bonzie Colson but looked very rusty due to not having played or practiced together for close to two weeks saw Valencia take the 9-point victory to move to 3-0 on the young season.
Maccabi’s record moved to 1-1 as they will now travel to Greece for a clash with Panathinaikos in Athens on Friday night where they will try to get back onto the winning track with a number of tough games coming up over the next couple of weeks against Monaco, Milan and Real Madrid.
Colson led all scorers with 20 points, Lorenzo Brown added 13 points along with 11 assists but committed 7 turnovers and James Webb with 9 points paced Maccabi in the loss. Damien Inglis scored 11 points while Victor Claver and Brandon Davies each scored 10 points in the win.
Head Coach Oded Katash spoke about the game that was along with adding some insights as to what challenges Maccabi will be facing over the next while due to the war.
“We were missing some game shape and we struggled to find our rhythm,” Katash began. “We played their tempo and we tread to do our best, we have to find our rhythm. As you all could see even though we tried our best to find our energy and focus on the game over the last 10-13 days, to come here to play a normal game tonight, there are some situations in the life that we live where basketball comes second.”
“We couldn’t find the energy, myself, the staff, players, everyone,” Katash continued. “We are going through tough times and you could see that on the court, we tried to focus on basketball and fight. We tried our best and I am just sorry that we disappointed our fans in Israel but you all have to understand that it’s not easy to play under these circumstances.You could see we couldn’t find our rhythm and our game but you have to give credit to Valencia as they played their game. Our thoughts every second and every minute are with our people in Israel and our soldiers. Hopefully in two days we will try to be better and come with better energy, but it’s never easy. Unfortunately basketball comes second during these days.”
The bench boss spoke a bit about the uncertainty going forward and how far the club can look ahead, “I think that is a big part, it’s not the most important thing, we are trying to focus on basketball and the next 3 days we play away. We can’t look ahead 10 days as we don’t know what will happen. I wish the situation can be solved in the short term but that is part of the difficulties we don’t know what will be in two weeks, we don’t even know what will be in two hours.”
“We will try and stay united. We know in the back of our minds we are Israeli and we will win in the end, but we don’t know what will be in ten days from now as that is part of the tough situation we are facing. Even we were not in our best game shape and not 100% focussed on basketball we kept fighting until the end and you could see it. It was not our A game and we didn’t play our best game especially offensively but you have to give credit to the Valencia defense. We have two tough weeks and a tough schedule coming up.”
Trying to keep the team together will be critical for Maccabi to succeeds Katash explained, “We are having a hard time in Israel over the last two weeks. It affects everyone, the Israelis, the foreigners but we are one team fighting together and we are there for each other fighting together. We are trying to do it on the court, although we didn’t have success tonight. Basketball is a team game but it involves differ personalities and we can’t predict how it will effect each player or team member, but we are there to support each other. One day it can be one guy having a tough time and the next day another guy, l but now it’s important that we stay together on and off the court. We are Maccabi Tel Aviv, we will never give up and we will win.”
Tamir Blatt also reflected on the situation at hand, “We’re in Spain and we are thinking of Israel, the families who lost loved ones. The massacre that we experienced is just unbelievable and we all hope that those who are being held hostage will return home very soon. The game was tough and it took time to find the right energy. There was a point where we began the second half well and we took the the lead but we lost it. We have to rest up and now we are looking ahead to Panathinaikos on Friday.”
As for the contest itself, Antonius Cleveland opened the game up with an alley-oop dunk off a Lorenzo Brown pass while Jake Cohen did the same when he sent Bonzie Colson a bounce pass backdoor for an easy dunk while Cohen went from the inside and outside to give the yellow-and-blue a 9-6 lead midway through the first quarter. Brown went from deep, Chris Jones did the same for Valencia, Josh Nebo dunked, Colson swished a jumper in the paint, Victor Claver hit a 3-pointer and Stefan Jovic added a layup for the hosts to put Valencia ahead 18-17 after ten minutes of play.
Nathan Reuvers and Claver kept scoring for Alex Mumbru’s team as the second quarter got underway, Colson came back with a pair of baskets, James Webb drilled home a triple but Jaime Pradilla put down a dunk to tie the game up at 24-24 with five minutes to go in the half. Josep Puerto and Jovic scored, Cleveland countered but Damien Inglis and Pradilla sent the hosts into halftime up 33-29.
Jasiel Rivero and Colson scored to begin the third quarter as they filled the basket early and often to give Oded Katash’s squad a 40-36 midway through the frame. Claver went from downtown, Pradilla and Jovic scored inside, Reuvers and Guillem Ferrando dialed up from long distance to cap a 14-0 run and hand Valencia a 50-44 lead after thirty minutes.
Boubacar Toure opened the fourth quarter with a bucket, Webb came back with a 3-pointer, Toure put down a dunk and Chris Jones hit a 3-pointer to go up 60-48 with 5:56 left in the game. Colson for a deuce and Brown for a triple kept Maccabi relevant, Inglis came back with a bucket, Cohen, Colson and Tamir Blatt all scored to cut the lead with just under two minutes left but free throws by Brandon Davies and Inglis sealed the win for Valencia.