“We have to take our swagger on the road” Chris Babb leads Herzliya to win over Maccabi setting up do or die game 3

May 30, 2022 | Holyland Hoops

There was no way that Chris Babb was going to have a repeat performance of his game one’s shooting woes for Bnei Herzliya. That was not going to be in the cards in a do or die game two semifinal tilt against Maccabi Tel Aviv at home.

There was going to be no way, no how, no chance that he would go 0-fer from long distance in two straight games after having gone from deep in every other Israel Basketball League contest this season. Having chalked up 86/223 for 38.6% this campaign from beyond the arc, Babb was going to make up for his 8 point showing at Yad Eliyahu and give the hometown fans something to be proud of.

And that is what he did by scoring 23 points while going 4 from 4 from deep to wash away the game one defeat and help Herzliya to a 97-81 win over Masccabi Tel Aviv and head into a decisive game three brimming with confidence.

However, it was not just Babb, it was absolutely everyone from A to Z who were part of this dominant win. Whether it was coach Oren Aharoni, or one of the six players who scored in double digits or any of the other players who contributed in the win, the star guard and candidate for the player of the season award knows that at Bnei Herzliya it’s not a one man show.

“Our focus was to stay together and stay confident and that’s what we did. We played together and we stayed together,” the former Boston Celtics guard began.

“We just played better overall and the game flowed better. We were more intense on the defensive end and we had easy looks on transition which opened up the floor for a lot of guys. We had six guys in double figures and when we make the right plays it makes things easier.”

Herzliya certainly made plays all game long as they dished out 26 assists and grabbed 41 rebounds in the win. In fact, last game despite brutal shooting performances from Babb, Quinton Hooker and Shawn Dawson, Oren Aharoni’s team only lost by six points to Maccabi Tel Aviv.

“We felt that in the last game we were competitive but we weren’t there offensively,” Aharoni explained. “In this game, we were there and we should be proud. We are now at 1-1 in the series with one more game to go. I have to give credit to all of the players for having one of the greatest games in franchise history. We have to stay modest and we will continue playing just as we have played up until now.”

Chris Babb – Photo Credit: Basket.co.il

Herzliya will look at game one as a hiccup and a learning experience after polishing Maccabi off in game two, but Babb is well aware that the team needs to continue with the momentum and confidence gained by sticking together as a unit as they shifted the semifinal series back to Tel Aviv.

“You don’t go into a game expecting not to make shots and to not play well. We will come into game three with a lot of confidence. It may have been nerves in game one and a lot of guys here haven’t played high level playoff basketball. We are still learning. We wanted to stay together, play hard as well as to make the right plays.”

One of the key players who brushed off a bit of rust was Quinton Hooker who was surprisingly registered for this series after having not played in a few months due to an injury. Hooker’s replacement DJ Copper came in and was an incredible addition to the team as he picked up where Hooker left off and played the point guard position almost to perfection.

After the team decided to list Cooper in the quarterfinal series against Hapoel Haifa, it seemed to be a no brainer that he would continue on in the semis versus Maccabi. However, Aharoni had other ideas and decided to go with Hooker who was a key component to the team that won the Israel State Cup. Regardless as to how good Hooker had been, eyebrows were raised and second guessing began which continued well into the game one defeat.

Quinton Hooker – Photo Credit: Basket.co.il

But after Hooker’s game two showing in which he played stellar ball with 14 points, 6 rebounds and four assists while managing the offense as well as any guard in Israel, Aharoni decision may just be the secret ingredient in this series as they look to punch their ticket to the finals on Wednesday.

“I’m very happy for Quinton because he stayed here for two months, worked hard and rehabbed,” Aharoni said “I’m so content and proud of the decision to bring him back for this series because it was the right thing to do. I know what he can give us and from my heart I am so happy for him because he wanted it so badly. He deserves all the credit in the world and it was the right thing to register him on the professional side.”

Babb also spoke about what Hooker brings to the table for the team after Aharoni made the tough decision to go with him, “We believe in the team and we believe in coach and it was a matter of how quick could we get adjusted. Quinton and DJ play different styles. Quinton stayed ready and he’s been healthy for a while. When he was out and he stayed with us and he was still talking in the lockerroom like he was playing. He plays with a lot of intensity and confidence.”

Derrick Williams – Photo Credit: Basket.co.il

As for Avi Even’s Maccabi Tel Aviv “defense” was the word of the day after the team played very little of it in the friendly confines of the HaYovel Arena. The yellow-and-blue could not make a key stop all game long and allowed Herzliya open chance after open chance while Scottie Wilbekin, Keenan Evans and James Nunnally went an atrocious 3/16 from 3-point land.

You’re in trouble when you aren’t playing defense and your shots aren’t falling which is exactly the predicament Maccabi was in in the game two loss.

“We weren’t able to stop them defensively, they scored at very high percentages and we gave up 97 points. You can’t win a playoff game like that and that is where it begins and ends. We didn’t get into our offense well and we lost our confidence. Herzliya scored tough shots and it was like a snowball effect from that point on. We will learn from this game and come into game three ready to go.”

Keenan Evans was very clear as to what concerns him the most as Maccabi heads to a game three while also explaining that despite having played on the road the yellow-and-blue needed to a better job, “Defense, that’s the only thing, defense. The offense has to make shots but at the end of the day it’s defense that I’m more worried than anything. I think everybody else is more worried about defense than anything. It’s a different arena and the home team will always play better and as far as shooting wise almost always. But that has nothing to do as to how we played defense. Defense has to travel and shooting doesn’t.”

Keenan Evans – Photo Credit: Basket.co.il

Even says that there is no magic formula as to what Maccabi needs to do when they take to the court in game three and to what the ultimate goal is. The yellow-and-blue have now lost two straight first chance close out games in the 2022 playoffs by a large margin as they not only fell to Herzliya in game two of the semifinals but also game 3 in the quarterfinals against Hapoel Aviv.

“We will bring our energy and intensity. There are no secrets. We have won many important games at home and we have to play tighter defense and be more focused on offense.”

Oren Aharoni is well aware that his team is 40 minutes away from the finals but knows that playing Maccabi and playing Maccabi at Yad Eliyahu could create complications for his team.

“Maccabi is a great team with many offensive weapons and when we had a few poor possessions this past game it hurt us. We have to keep our focus as Maccabi is a much more experienced team in these situations. If we are not focused we will have issues.”

Chris Babb was straight and to the point in what will be their fourth and final chance to beat Maccabi in Tel Aviv, “We need to score more points than they do and we have to take our swagger on the road which is tough in this league. Every game we have played there, we have shown flashes of playing good basketball. The key is playing a full 40 minutes and that is what we are going to do.”

Chris Babb – Photo Credit: Basket.co.il

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