By John Askounis/ email@example.com
The threat of the coronavirus spread forced both Basketball Champions League Round of 16 games between Hapoel Bank Yahav Jerusalem and Peristeri winmasters to be held behind closed doors. FIBA afterward suspended all competitions including the BCL. The developing situation reminds everyone involved that basketball itself must not be considered so important after all.
“You never know what is going to happen tomorrow or next week with the coronavirus crisis,” noted head coach Oded Kattash after his side completed the two-game sweep on Wednesday evening and before FIBA issued its press release, “That is why it was very important for us to win the series in a clean way.”
The coronavirus and the overall impact of the pandemic make the Hapoel Jerusalem family reevaluate the actual importance of basketball success.
“For us, coaches and players, basketball is life. The coronavirus reminds us that some things are more important than basketball,” the 45-year-old Israeli added, “I hope we find a solution to get back to our regular lives with basketball.”
FIBA’s competitions were since suspended. However, San Pablo Burgos is the scheduled quarterfinal opponent for the Israeli outlet. The two teams met in the regular season as well splitting wins at home. This time around, Hapoel will hold the home-court advantage in the best-of-three series.
“We know it’s not going to be easy, but we are looking forward to the challenge,” said Kattash, “We feel like we have a good chance. We are indeed among the Basketball Champions League favorites, but just one of the favorites. The level of the competition has improved this year, especially in the last eight.”
In their BCL debut last season, James Feldeine and company were stopped in the quarterfinals by Iberostar Tenerife, hope for a step further this season provided action resumes. “We are happy we moved on for the second straight season, but we are not satisfied,” he mentioned after helping his side advance with 24 points in Greece.
Following Game 1, the Quinnipiac alumni talked about how he didn’t like playing behind closed doors. COVID-19 forced FIBA’s hand but removed the most crucial part of basketball from the equation, the fans. In full contrast to the Champions League, Israel’s Super League was among leagues remaining active but ultimately suspended action up to the end of March on Friday. Hapoel Jerusalem currently sits in second place behind Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv packing a 17-4 W-L domestic tally.
On the BCL front, apart from the Israeli team and Burgos, ERA Nymburk and AEK are set for their 2018 series rematch, while Turk Telekom and Casademont Zaragoza await their next opponents, JDA Dijon or Nizhny Novgorod, Iberostar Tenerife or Filou Oostende, respectively. Hopefully, the teams above actually have the chance to further their runs into the Final Four.
Photo Credit: Basketball Champions League