Three wins in three games for Israeli clubs in European competition

While Maccabi Tel Aviv took care of business at home, Hapoel Holon and Hapoel Tel Aviv won on the road in impressive fashion.

 MACCABI TEL AVIV teammates Bonzie Colson and Jalen Adams (right) combined for 51 points in the 108-104 double-overtime victory over Hapoel Haifa. (photo credit: YEHUDA HALICKMAN)
MACCABI TEL AVIV teammates Bonzie Colson and Jalen Adams (right) combined for 51 points in the 108-104 double-overtime victory over Hapoel Haifa.
(photo credit: YEHUDA HALICKMAN)

It was a busy and most fruitful week for Israeli teams in European play as a trio of clubs – Maccabi Tel Aviv, Hapoel Holon and Hapoel Tel Aviv – all won their games in continental competition.

Maccabi Tel Aviv led wire-to-wire to take a convincing 90-81 EuroLeague win over Partizan Belgrade as Bonzie Colson and Lorenzo Brown proved to be unstoppable at Yad Eliyahu.

For yellow-and-blue coach Oded Katash, this was the first win over his own former bench boss from his playing days – the legendary Zeljko Obradovic – after falling to his team earlier in the season in Serbia.

The hosts raced out to a 12-0 lead as Colson, Brown and Josh Nebo were able to score at will to get the proceedings underway, but Kevin Punter and Zach LeDay started chipping away at the advantage and closed the gap to 46-39 by halftime.

Jarell Martin got busy in the third quarter as Dante Exum tried to keep the Serbian squad close, but Maccabi bumped the lead-up going into the final frame. Brown made big plays down the stretch while the defense held Partizan at bay to take the nine-point win.

Oded Katash and Maccabi Tel Aviv are in the middle of a grueling stretch, with one big game after the next, both locally and in the EuroLeague. (credit: Dov Halickman)Oded Katash and Maccabi Tel Aviv are in the middle of a grueling stretch, with one big game after the next, both locally and in the EuroLeague. (credit: Dov Halickman)

“I think we played the right way,” Katash said following the game. “We stuck to the game plan and had a great effort. We started the game really well. We tried to bother them and to slow them down, because they execute really well. I love the way we played. Even though we missed some shots, it wasn’t our best day but we found the way to get the W and I am proud of the guys. It is always sweet to win a EuroLeague game but it is a big honor to play against Zeljko Obradovic.”

Obradovic also gave credit to Tel Aviv.

“Maccabi started the game very aggressive which we expected and we started very badly,” Obradovic explained. “I’m not really happy with our offense and we can’t win when we have an assist-to-turnover ratio as what we had, we can’t win with that. We couldn’t defend Maccabi running and in transition.”

Colson, the game’s MVP, also looked back at the contest.

“Just playing with confidence [is so important]. My teammates gave me a lot of confidence as well, just getting what the defense gave me, taking my shots, driving and just trying to be active. I did that but we have to move on. We have a big one on Friday. I feed off their energy, we have the best fans in the EuroLeague and it is great to have them behind us every home game. We just have to keep it up.”

Brown led the way with 21 points, Colson added 19 points, Martin scored 13 points and Nebo checked in with 10 points in the win. Punter paced Partizan with 22 points, Exum chipped in with 17 points and LeDay scored 15 points in the defeat.

With the victory, Maccabi is now 10-8 and moved up in the standings into eighth place and a playoff position as the yellow-and-blue will look to continue its winning ways as it faces 6-12 Panathinaikos on Friday night in Athens.

Despite the Greeks’ rough season thus far, Katash is well aware as to how dangerous his former team, as both a player and a coach, is at home.

“Their results haven’t been great recently but it’s not easy to play at the OAKA Arena and we don’t have a lot of time to prepare so it won’t be easy. We need everyone to be ready, but I believe that we have enough experience as we get ready for this important game.”

Hapoel Holon win and advance

It took Hapoel Holon a half to warm up on the road, but once it did it was all Guy Goodes’s squad as they downed Igokea 91-80 to punch its ticket to the Basketball Champions League Round of 16 Group Stage.

The hosts played solid ball for the opening 20 minutes, but Holon’s Joe Ragland, Chris Johnson, Marvin Jones and Frederic Bourdillon proved to be unstoppable in the second half as they eased the way to a 2-0 sweep over the Bosnians.

Holon was lethal from beyond the arc going 13-for-27 as Bourdillon hit five, Ragland nailed four and Johnson put in three, while the Israelis also out-rebounded 30-26 and had more assists 26-20 in the victory to join Hapoel Jerusalem, Strasbourg and the winner of the JDA Dijon and Peristeri winner in the next round.

Ragland led the way with 20 points and 13 assists, Jones added 18 points, Bourdillon checked in with 15 points, Johnson scored 13 points and Javin Delaurier scored 10 points and grabbed nine rebounds in the win. Djordjevic paced Igokea with 18 points, Nikola Tanaskovic chipped in with 15 points and Bryant Crawford scored 13 points in the loss.

“We came really focussed into the game and we knew it would be a difficult match,” Goodes said. “This was a challenge for us to win our second game on the road. It was a game of two halves. In the second we made our shots and we opened up the gap. Our target was to get to the top 16 and it will be a battle to get into the top 8 as there will be very good teams there and we will look forward.”

Hapoel Tel Aviv's comeback in London

In London, Hapoel Tel Aviv won a thriller over London Lions 95-93 as Jordan McRae spurred a double-digit comeback while J’Covan Brown scored the winning basket to hand the Reds the victory in front of 1,500 traveling fans from Israel.

The Lions, led by Sam Dekker and Tomislav Zubcic, came out strong and scored at will over the course of the opening half as McRae almost single-handedly tried to keep Danny Franco’s squad close but went into the break down 58-48.

Ryan Schmidt’s team kept controlling the pace of play in the second half, but McRae, Brown and Chinanu Onuaku put the pedal to the metal over the course of the fourth quarter to pull the game out in the waning moments and send the Hapoel faithful into delirium in London.

McRae scored 36 points, Brown added 18 points and Onuaku scored 10 points and grabbed 17 rebounds in the win. Dekker led the way for the hosts with 29 points, Zubcic chipped in with 19 points and Kostas Koufus scored 15 points in the stinging defeat.

“This one was tough and anybody could have won,” Franco said. “I’m happy, of course, that it went to us. My guys were stubborn. It was a frustrating game for us. We couldn’t find our rhythm – on both sides of the floor – for a lot of minutes. We just tried to stay in the game. With a lot of hustle – we grabbed 24 offensive rebounds – not because we are bigger or more athletic and we kept on fighting. We tried to dive and touch every ball, and that kept us alive. Eventually, that stubbornness and that determination to win came to our favor.”

“It’s a tough loss,” Schmidt began. “I thought our guys played well, competed. At the end of the day, that’s a talented team. They’ve got guys who can put up big points... They made plays down the stretch when they needed to.”

McRae also spoke about the victory.

“It was a total team effort. We fought hard at the end and we never gave up. All the guys on the floor and on the bench just played hard. All I want to do is win. If you ask the coach, the players about me, in practice, 3-on-3, 5-on-5, I’m always trying to win. That’s all I want to do.”