The Israel men’s basketball league was back in action this week for the first time since the war with Hamas broke out on October 7 as a trio of games took center stage across the country.
In addition, Hapoel Tel Aviv and Hapoel Holon were also playing in their continental competitions, the EuroCup and Baseball Champions League respectively, in what was a very busy week on the hardwood.
Maccabi Ramat Gan defeated Bnei Herzliya 80-70 to wrap up its first victory back in the top division.
Jordan Cohen and Isaiah Miles had the hot hands for Maccabi Ramat Gan to get the game under way while Robert Carter answered for Bnei Herzliya. However, JP Tokoto, Adam Ariel and Benyahu Srur helped give the visitors a 51-31 halftime lead.
Sandy Cohen and Herzliya’s new captain Willy Workman started to cut into the Ramat Gan lead, but Alex Hamilton turned up the offense to seal the win.
Cohen led the way with 14 points, Hamilton added 13 points and Tokoto scored 13 points and grabbed nine rebounds in the win. Carter paced the hosts with 19 points, Workman chipped in with 13 points and 12 rebounds while Cohen scored 12 points in the loss.
Hamilton’s the game’s MVP, reflected on the contest.
“We got an early lead and Herzliya did a great job to get back into the game before we closed it out. It’s years of experience, as guys stepped up and we played as a team. As for how I’ve been able to integrate into the team, the guys in the locker room and the staff made it easy for me and everyone here at Ramat Gan has been great. For me to sign in Israel, it is a place that I am comfortable with, and if the people are comfortable enough to stay and deal with the tough situation on a daily basis then I am all for coming here.”
“It was very tough for the team to come together and click but we were able to do it,” Ramat Gan coach Shmulik Brenner said. “We are coming together without just one star and that is what we are talking about all of the time. Every few minutes it was someone else who stepped up and we can see that everyone here can contribute throughout the game.”
In the southern capital, Hapoel Afula picked up its first win in the top league with a 90-81 victory over Hapoel Beersheba.
Both sides played a tight first half as Ira Lee paced the hosts to a 44-41 lead. However, the visitors outscored the hosts in the second half and featured five players in double digits, including Noam Avivi who checked in with a career game to help Roie Perel’s team to the victory.
Avivi led the way with 29 points and eight rebounds, Spencer Weisz recorded a 16 point-12 rebound double-double while Lucas Goldenberg added 15 points in the win. Egor Koulechov scored 15 points, Lee chipped in with 13 points and Grant Sherfield scored 12 points in the loss.
Avivi spoke about his MPV performance
“The team needed me to do more due to the lack of available players. I played my game and I am happy that things turned out well, but really the most important thing was winning the game as a team. The fact that there are less imports allows for the Israelis to take center stage and there are enough quality Israelis that can take advantage of this opportunity. I feel that I have found a home at Hapoel Afula and the credit goes to the coach who believes in me.”
Up by the Carmel Mountain, Ness Ziona swamped Hapoel Haifa 111-82 as six players scored in double digits in a game that the Reds played with a short squad primarily made up of younger players.
Tomer Levinson came close to recording a triple-double with 18 points, 15 rebounds and six assists, Rawle Alkins added 17 points while Zuf ben Moshe scored 15 points in the win. Mike McGuirl scored 35 points and Amit Gershon added 18 points in the loss.
In Bosnia and Herzegovina, Hapoel Holon used a massive second half to overwhelm Bursaspor 93-74 to improve its Basketball Champions League group stage record to 3-1.
Anthony Brown and Jordan Lloyd helped the Turkish hosts to a 45-42 lead by halftime, but CJ Harris and Justin Smith helped Amit Sherf’s to a 51-29 second half and the win.
Harris led the way with 25 points, Smith added 17 points and Amine Noua scored 10 points in the win. Brown scored 22 points and Floyd chipped in with 18 points in the defeat.
“Unfortunately we are used to playing without our crowd, but I want to thank Igooea for hosting the game. It was a super important match when you have six games for each of the four teams, every game and every basket is important. We are fighting for first place and if we would have lost it would have complicated the group.”
Game MVP Harris discussed the win.
“It was a very important match as we wanted to come here and win to go into first place in the group. The second unit off the bench brought us to victory, they came in when the first unit was lax and big congrats for helping us to the win. If we keep working and keep getting better we have a good chance to finish first, but the games ahead are going to be tough so we have to keep learning and working hard.”
Hapoel Tel Aviv also came up as winners in EuroCup play with a 81-75 victory over Besiktas.
In what was a back-and-forth game throughout, the sides headed into the final frame all knotted up at 63-63. However, with the Turkish squad in front by a point with a minute and a half to go, J’Covan Brown took the bull by the horns to spur the Reds to the win and move their record to 6-2.
Brown scored 19 points and added seven assists, Jaylen Hoard chipped in with 15 points and Braian Angola scored 11 points in the win. Derek Needham scored 16 points, Jonah Matthews added 15 points and Matthew Mitchell chipped in with 13 points in the loss.
“It was a big win and it was a huge test,” Hapoel Tel Aviv coach Danny Franco said. “if you weren’t here you just can’t understand it. I have to take my hat off to the guys. There are things that we have to work on and fix up but the staff and players really did a great job and I am very happy.
“I am not sure which imports will get onto the flight to go back to Israel and the Israeli league will be an issue for us with the tough travel and we will have to deal with it. We are an Israeli club and we will have to handle the situation. But to play with this type of tough schedule can be very significant.”
The game MVP, Brown, spoke about the tight triumph.
“I’m doing my job to be with the guys night in and night out. We had to be aggressive as we knew they would be and we had to play our basketball. But credit to them – they are a tough team but we took on the challenge to play together and fight together to get this win.”