By: Daniel Levine
As I approached the gate from outside the Menora Mivtachim Arena, I could already a feel a special kind of energy coming from the arena. Having only been to one game in this arena before, the Maccabi Tel Aviv vs. Maccabi Rishon game about a week ago, I knew I was soon in for an experience like I’ve never experienced before.
Immediately, I took notice to how the fans were isolated in their own areas, opposite of their opponents’ fans. I was unable to understand the meaning of their cheers and chants (I don’t speak any Hebrew), but they seemed to be of the call and response variety. As I watched an incredible game between Ashdod and Tel Aviv, chants were bouncing back and forth on both sides of me, similarly to how the game itself was one of many lead changes. Many expected for Maccabi Tel Aviv to blow out Maccabi Ashdod, but this was not remotely the case. Midway through the 3rd quarter, not only was a blow-out out of the question, but it was becoming feasible that Ashdod may actually pull off the upset. With a growing sense of anxiety coming from the Maccabi Tel Aviv section as well a growing sense of excitement coming from the Ashdod section, the fans of Jerusalem and Holon began to file in to catch the 4th quarter of action between these two ball clubs.
In their home arena, Tel Aviv fans were vastly outnumbered. After any play in favor of Ashdod, the entire arena minus the Tel Aviv section erupted in cheers. It was no secret that Holon and Jerusalem would much prefer to see Ashdod across from them on Thursday, having of course won their semifinal match against each other first. Unfortunately for them, thanks to an incredible 4-point play from Pierre Jackson in the final minute and a very close half-court desperation heave from Sek Henry just missing, Maccabi Tel Aviv earned their bid to the Championship game tomorrow night.
Within the span of 20 minutes between games, the arena transformed from yellow and blue to purple and red. Both Holon and Jerusalem brought twice as many fans with them as Tel Aviv and Ashdod did combined. I already thought the arena was loud for the first game but I could not have been more wrong. Simply put, my ears were ringing when left the arena after sitting and observing for 5 hours straight.
Although the game between Holon and Jerusalem was less exciting, no one would make that assumption based on the noise of the crowds. Leading or trailing, both fan sections were constantly in cheer mode for the duration of the contest. Only once Holon began to pull away in the second half did the Jerusalem section begin to quiet down, but Holon fans made up for Jerusalem’s quietness by chanting louder. Due to a dominant performance from Glen Rice Jr. combined with a poor display of shooting and sloppy turnovers from Jerusalem, Holon is heading to the Championship round on Thursday night where the still favorites Maccabi Tel Aviv await.