Besiktas stunned Hapoel Holon 73-72 as Isaiah Whitehead’s last gasp layup cancelled out Guy Pnini’s 3-pointer to win the game on the road with an undermanned squad and take a 1-0 lead in their best-of-3 series.
With the Turkish side featuring only 9 players which included just two foreigners, Mauricio Buscaglia’s team grabbed a 35-28 lead at half-time thanks to a 12-0 run in the second quarter led by strong play from Israeli Rafi Menco who recorded his first Champions League double-double. But Ahmet Kandemir’s crew kept pace in the third quarter as Whitehead and Kenan Siphai helped the Istanbul based club knot the score up at 52-52 going into the final frame.
Adam Smith took over for the hosts scoring on the inside and from the outside but Whitehead matched him shot for shot as the game went down to the wire. Guy Pnini scored a beautiful 3-pointer on a gorgeous team play to give Holon a 72-70 advantage with 9.5 seconds left in the contest, but Whitehead again came up huge with his game winning bucket to send the series to Turkey with Besiktas in the drivers seat.
The game’s most valuable player Isaiah Whitehead led the way with 21 points with 16 coming in the second half while both Dedric Lawson and Kenan Sipahi scored 12 points a piece in the win. Rafi Menco scored 18 points and grabbed 10 boards, Adam Smith added 14 points and Joe Ragland scored 9 points and dished out 7 assists.
“This was one tough loss and when we came back at the end of the first half to take the lead it seemed that the game story was clear; that this would be a low scoring match,” Holon coach Maurizio Buscaglia began. “It was important for us to keep up with the defensive effort. We were frustrated on offense and we have to learn how to execute and take steps on offense when the game is close. We have no choice and we have to win the next game in Turkey on the road. We have to learn and try to give a better effort than we did today.”
“Holon has one of the best fan bases that I’ve seen,” Besiktas coach Ahmet Kandemir noted. “Coming into the game we had missing players but we stuck to our game plan and played great defense. At halftime we spoke about a few things and in the second half even though we had guys in foul trouble we got the win.
Game MVP Isaiah Whitehead was all smiles following the win, “We just knew we needed a bucket and a stop. That is how we win games. It means a lot to win as everybody stepped up and we got a big win on the road. We are looking forward to the next game at home.”
Kenen Siphai also reflected on his team’s victory, “This was a big and important win for us and it was the next man up mentality. It didn’t matter if we won or lost, but a win was really nice in this case. Now we will play them at home with our fans and we have a good chance to make it to the Round of 16. Playing in Holon was great with a terrific atmosphere.”
Holon’s Adam Smith understands that their backs are now against the wall, “It was a playoff type of game and both teams made plays down the stretch. We also made some good plays but credit goes to them and Isaiah Whitehead who made some plays at the end. We have to stay hungry and stay together and see what we can do better.”
Chris Johnson got the proceedings underway for Hapoel Holon with a midrange jumper but Isaiah Whitehead for Besiktas came right back down the court with a triple early on in the first quarter. Rafi Menco scored from the inside and the outside while Dedric Lawson and Whitehead responded to stay close to Holon 11-9 midway through the frame. Steve Zack got busy in the paint with a trio of buckets for Maurizio Buscaglia’s squad while Joe Ragland also scored a pair of driving baskets but Mehmet Yagmur and Egehen Arna both went from deep to stay close to the purples who led 20-17 after ten minutes of play.
Kenan Sipahi opened the second quarter with points from beyond the arc for the Turkish side and Furkan Haltali scored inside as the swarming Besiktas defense kept Holon’s offense at bay as they took a 23-20 lead with 5:36 left in the half. Menco finally broke the scoring drought with points at the end of the shot clock, a 3-pointer from the elbow and a layup, Ragland dialed up long distance as Lawson did the same at the other end but Holon went into the halftime break holding a 35-28 advantage.
Ragland fed Zack for an alley-oop to begin the third quarter, Menco went from downtown but Haltali and Arna answered to stay close as Holon kept the lead 40-36 midway through the period. Arna scored off the baseline, Lawson put in a floater, Ercan Osmani found points in the paint while Niv Misgav and Guy Pnini scored 3-pointers for Holon but Whitehead put home a pair of baskets to tie the game up at 52-52 after thirty minutes of action.
Sipahi nailed a jumper and scored a runner off the baseline to get the fourth quarter going, Misgav hit a pair of free throws and the grabbed a rebound to allow Adam Smith to score from downtown as Holon went in front 59-56 with 5:48 remaining in regulation time. Smith drilled in a pair of jumpers, Menco went from deep as did Whitehead with two of his own, Smith came right back down the floor to do the same but Sipahi scored a triple to put Besiktas ahead 70-69 with 46.5 seconds left in the period.
Pnini got the ball outside and delivered a perfect 3-pointer to retake the advantage with under 10 seconds to go, but Whitehead drove into the paint and put in a circus act layup to win the game 73-72 and a stun the hosts as they took a 1-0 series lead.