By Stefan Djordjevic/ firstname.lastname@example.org
Each of the Basketball Champions League seasons so far has had at least a couple of surprises when it comes to teams overachieving or making historic runs. This one has been no exception.
Quite a few teams made it to their first-ever BCL playoffs, whether in their debut season or after multiple tries, and one of them is Hapoel Unet-Credit Holon.
Holon couldn’t get over the hump and to the playoffs for the past three years but this time around they pushed hard for it.
“Hard” being the keyword. Their season started slow with two losses in BCL and three in the Israeli League but something clicked at that moment and the team went on a 12-out-of-13 winning streak across competitions.
They finished ahead of AEK in Group C and grabbed their playoff ticket, their first-ever.
That was only the beginning, however, as in the playoffs group I, three big challenges awaited – Pinar Karsiyaka, Tofas, and Happy Casa Brindisi.
Hapoel grabbed three crucial wins, all on the road, and sealed the deal with one win at home, advancing as the first-placed squad once again.
“Qualifying after the first group was something the club hadn’t done before and being in the Top 16 was already an achievement. Then, even having the toughest group in the Top 16, we managed to get very good wins, beat Karsiyaka, Tofas, Brindisi, all of them away. The Final Eight, which was a long, long shot became a reality,” coach Stefanos Dedas said on the BCL Coast to Coast Podcast.
The coach believes that his team had the toughest group in the playoffs, and now, they also got drawn into the toughest path possible for the Final Eight bracket.
Holon will have to face the reigning champions Hereda San Pablo Burgos, who’ve been making history of their own, and after that the winner of the duel between Lenovo Tenerife and SIG Strasbourg.
“Things will get tougher and tougher. We are facing the reigning champions. Burgos has five bigs, big forwards, great shooters and experienced point guards. If we were talking about a series with two or three games, they would’ve been the favorites. However, since it’s just one elimination game, it goes in our favor. We already took down big teams this season,” Dedas noted.
However, as they did so far, the squad will push through with its impressive backcourt duo of CJ Harris and Isiah Miles but also Tyrus McGee and the experience Guy Pnini.
Experience is what Dedas points to as the biggest advantage of his team along with the chemistry to pull through the toughest of moments.
“We have an experienced team. All of our guys from the first unit are around 30 or above and have a very rich CV. Especially Guy Pnini who can score and create in the final moments. Another thing is chemistry. We don’t break in the tough moments. We have a different leader every time and good chemistry brings some luck with it.”
And the players embraced the same mindset as well. McGee shared so with Eurohoops earlier in the season.
“He has a unique coaching style. All of us players respect it and we have adapted to his style of play. We all understand him and I think he understands us as well,” the American guard explained and added. “We have a great group of guys with experience and we play well together that’s the most important thing.”
Everything seems to be put together and working perfectly in Hapoel Holon as the team faces the toughest opponent possible in the first match of the Final Eight Tournament in Russia.
No doubt they are confident in their ability to go all the way but the biggest tests yet await and it remains to be seen if their will is enough to reach the top.
Photo Credit: Basketball Champions League