(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
"We are moving from incident to incident, from difficult to severe," Culture, Science and Sports Minister Ghaleb Majadle told Army Radio Monday morning, referring to a tragic event that took place in Malha Arena Sunday evening, in which a security guard lost three fingers when a firecracker was thrown onto the floor during a basketball match between Hapoel Holon and Hapoel Jerusalem.
"This has to bring about a state of emergency, with the implications this has. We need to treat [such incidents] without mercy and immediately. We should not aim to educate, but to punish and punish strongly, even to the point of ousting a club from the league."
During the match, with a minute and a half remaining in the contest, a fan standing above the Amir section in Malha threw the fire cracker onto the floor, prompting the guard to run, scoop up the explosive and jump on it to absorb the blast in front of the Holon bench.
The explosion was heard throughout the hall and chaos erupted as players, fans and security personnel ran in every direction. MDA personnel ran to the scene in within seconds and quickly tended to the injured, which included fans.
Police arrested four Hapoel Holon fans Monday morning on suspicion of involvement in the incident.
Jerusalem forward, Jamie Arnold, speaking to The Jerusalem Post said about the security guard's bravery, "I really appreciate it. Not only did he do his job, he sacrificed himself for all of us."
"This is something extremely serious that has never happened in a basketball arena before," BSL chairman Avner Kopel said. "We will work vigorously to tackle this matter. I thought that this kind of thing can only happen on a soccer field, but obviously I was wrong. We pay the police a lot of money so these things won't occur and they should be responsible for what happened."
"The firecracker could have killed someone. I will leave Hapoel Holon and retire from coaching if the BSL and the police don't investigate this matter within the next three days," Holon owner and coach Miki Dorsman said. "I feel like somebody stabbed me in the heart. The security guard tried to save our lives and I thank god that he only injured his hand. This must be stopped or somebody will die."
As the police restored order, around 100 Holon fans were held inside the arena for questioning.
Playing in front of a raucous home crowd, Jerusalem was able to take care of business against a tough newly promoted Hapoel Holon side. This was the first meeting between the two teams since the 2000-2001 season when Jerusalem won both meetings.
The first quarter started off with Chester Simmons and Sharon Shason trading three pointers, and then Holon took control of both the offensive and defensive ends of the floor.
PJ Tucker made a thundering dunk and Simmons's sharp shooting earned 14 points in the frame and led Holon to a 9-0 run to go up 14-5.
Jamie Arnold with seven points and Will Blaylock with four points answered back for Jerusalem to cut the lead down to six (29-23) at the end of the quarter.
The second quarter saw Holon continuing to pour on the offense, with many weapons available to coach Miki Dorsman on his deep bench. Malik Dixon, Amit Tamir and new signing Tanoka Beard each contributed to the cause to help the visitors go on a 13-5 run. With five minutes remaining in the half, Holon was up by 14 points, 42-28.
Jerusalem then started to claw back into the game with a 13-3 run of their own. Guy Pniny led the charge with nine of his 15 points for the game and the Holon lead dwindled to four points, 45-41. Simmons then quieted the crowd with his third triple of the half and Eric Campbell's four points took Holon into the locker room up seven (52-45).
The second half began at a frantic pace with a Moran Rot lay up followed by a Shason three-pointer and quick jumper as the referees let the flow of the game go on uninterrupted.
Timmy Bowers benefited the most, using his speed and up tempo offense to score 12 of his 18 points and a Marcus Slaughter jumper cut the Holon lead to two (69-67). The teams traded baskets and Beard hit a jumper as the third quarter ended, giving Holon a slim 2-point lead (79-77).
As the fourth quarter opened, Jerusalem finally took their first lead of the game on unheralded Yehu Orland's three-pointer. The defensive intensity of both teams picked up as time ticked down on the clock.
Neither club would allow the other an uncontested basket, and with three minutes to go two Jamie Arnold free throws and a Timmy Bowers lay up helped Jerusalem to a five point lead 94-89.
It was at this point the stun grenade came flying out of the stands and caused the cancellation of the game.
Earlier Sunday, Bnei Hasharon recorded its second straight league win, defeating Hapoel Afula/Gilboa 83-72 on the road. Ndudi Ebi led the visitors with 19 points and nine rebounds, with Jason Williams and Cookie Belcher each adding 14 points.
Ironi Nahariya dominated Ironi Ashkelon at home on Sunday night, leading from start to finish and thrashing the visitors 102-76. Sasa Ocokoljic led Nahariya with 17 points with Ido Kozikaro scoring 16 points and grabbing 12 rebounds.
Hapoel Galil Elyon lost to Maccabi Rishon Lezion 94-84 on Sunday, its third straight league defeat. Juan Mendez scored 28 points and grabbed 10 rebounds for the winners.
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