Local Basketbal: Holon aims to prove itself Maccabi's equal

Holon has won five straight league games and nine of its last 10 matches, proving that it can consistently play at the highest level.

Hapoel Holon 224.88 (photo credit: Asaf Kliger [file])
Hapoel Holon 224.88
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger [file])
It may seem strange now, but just six months ago Hapoel Holon made its long awaited return to the BSL. The turmoil at Hapoel Jerusalem's Malha Arena in November, in which a firecracker thrown by a Holon fan seriously injured a security guard, could have broken Holon's spirit. But the players pushed on regardless and on Monday the team hosts Maccabi Tel Aviv, looking to prove that it's on a par with Israel's perennial champion. Holon has won five straight league games and nine of its last 10 matches, proving that it can consistently play at the highest level. Miki Dorsman's team has not only won nearly every game recently, but has also done so with ease, beating its opponents by an average 12.9 points per game. Holon, which defeated Maccabi 83-71 in December, came tantalizingly close to defeating Tel Aviv at the Nokia Arena in March, losing 85-84 after Chester Simmons missed at the buzzer. Much like Maccabi, Hapoel has a deep and balanced roster in which no player is on court more than 29 minutes per game. Despite Holon's many alternatives, Tel Aviv will still be aiming to stop two of its opponent's players in particular. Chester Simmons (15.8 ppg, 4.2 rpg) and P.J Tucker (14 ppg, 6.9 rpg) have been at the top of their game all season long and Maccabi will know that slowing the two down will be significant to the outcome of Monday night's encounter. Maccabi has wobbled in its last two league games, losing at home 79-78 to Bnei Hasharon two weeks ago and only defeating an erratic Jerusalem team 113-111 after overtime thanks to a dramatic fourth period comeback last Sunday. Tel Aviv's visit to Holon will be the side's penultimate league game before it leaves for Madrid for the Euroleague Final Four in which it faces Montepaschi Siena next Friday. Bnei Hasharon, which lost Cookie Belcher for the season through injury last week, will look to rebound from its defeat to Holon last Monday when it hosts the down spiraling Ironi Ramat Gan, which has lost six straight games. Also Monday, Ironi Ashkelon, which moved into fourth position last week, visits Hapoel Galil Elyon and Ironi Nahariya hosts Hapoel Afula/Gilboa. On Tuesday, Jerusalem will have an ideal opportunity to end its four game losing streak when it hosts rock-bottom Maccabi Rishon Lezion. With six games to play in the regular season, Hapoel faces a real battle to qualify for the Final Four after the loss to Maccabi dropped it out of the top four last week.