Hapoel Holon advances to Champions League Final 8

 
HAPOEL HOLON guard CJ Harris scored a game-high 24 points as the Israeli side continued its impressive continental run with a 81-79 overtime victory over Happy Casa Brindisi to advance to the Champions League Final Eight.  (photo credit: DOV HALICKMAN PHOTOGRAPHY)
HAPOEL HOLON guard CJ Harris scored a game-high 24 points as the Israeli side continued its impressive continental run with a 81-79 overtime victory over Happy Casa Brindisi to advance to the Champions League Final Eight.
(photo credit: DOV HALICKMAN PHOTOGRAPHY)

Veteran Pnini finds De Zeeuw for last-gasp winner to secure overtime victory over Casa Brindisi

Hapoel Holon downed Happy Casa Brindisi 81-79 in overtime on Wednesday night in Holon to punch its ticket to the Champions League Final Eight Tournament.
Maxim De Zeeuw scored the winning basket with 1.5 seconds left thanks to a tremendous Guy Pnini inbounds pass from just to the side of the basket to send Stefonas Dedas’s squad into the final round of the competition.
The visitors stymied Holon high-paced offense over the first half, limiting the Israeli team to just 25 points, but after the halftime break CJ Harris, Chris Johnson and Tyrus McGee began to hit their shots.
So did Brindisi, however, as the game went into the extra session all knotted up at 72.
Darius Thompson, Frank Vitucci’s star shooter, kept Brindisi close all the way to the end but Holon’s veteran experience helped notch the victory to set off the celebrations with the club’s loyal fans at the Toto Arena.
With the win, Dedas’s squad finished in first place in Group I as the club will now look to host the event slated for next month.
Harris led the way for Holon with 24 points and five assists, Johnson added 15 points and seven rebounds, Pnini checked in with 13 points and McGee put in 12 points in the win.
Darius Thompson scored 23 points, Mattia Udom chipped in with 11 points and Raphael Gaspardo scored 10 points for Brindisi in the loss.
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It wasn’t a great game, but [it was] a great fight,” said Dedas after the win “These types of games you lose nine times out of 10 and that was the feeling during the game as it was difficult battle. It’s a new environment for us with the fans back in the stands and we recorded a really big win against a very tough team from Italy.”
De Zeeuw, who scored the winning bucket, reflected on the inbounds pass from Pnini that helped notch the victory.
“It was just experience. He just made a small motion and I knew I had to go to that spot on the floor. I took a chance to go quicker and then I just had to put the ball in the basket. It was like a striker scoring a goal. After the basket I ran and ran and if they didn’t stop me I would have run forever. This was amazing for the fans and for the club.”
Pnini explained the play from his point of view.
“I knew we weren’t going to have a clear shot on the basket with such little time left. I knew I would pass the ball, but the play wasn’t set. It was like a Hail Mary in football.”
Harris opened the game with a triple to get Hapoel Holon off and running in the first quarter, but a dunk by Thompson and points by Nick Perkins and Raphael Gaspardo gave Brindisi a 9-3 lead midway through the frame.
Gaspardo put down a dunk, but points by De Zeeuw and McGee kept the hosts close, down 16-13 after 10 minutes of action.
Ousman Krubally and Alessandro Zanelli found points to open the second quarter, while Harris finally scored the first points of the frame for Dedas’s squad with 3:08 left until halftime. Harris drilled home his third triple of the game and McGee filled the bucket, but fine play by Mattia Udom gave the visitors a 30-25 lead at the half.
Gaspardo began the third quarter with a midrange on the baseline and Perkins put down a dunk, but free-throws from Johnson and De Zeeuw plus a layup by Pnini pulled Holon to within 34-33 midway through the period.
Gaspardo cleaned up a Brindisi miss and Thompson found points, but Johnson, McGee, Harris and Isaiah Miles countered to give the hosts a 52-49 lead after 30 minutes.
McGee and Harris found points to start the fourth quarter while Johnson also scored, but Ricardo Visconti and Udom matched Holon at the other end to keep the game close – 58-57 in favor of the hosts – with five minutes remaining in regulation.
Harris kept scoring, Johnson nailed a pair of corner three-pointers and Harris added one as well, but Thompson scored eight straight points for Brindisi while Krubally and Josh Bostic each added free-throws to tie it up at 72-72 to send the game into overtime.
James Bell scored his first points of the game, but free-throws from Johnson before he fouled out gave Holon a 77-75 advantage. De Zeeuw hit his free-throws, but a triple by Thompson knotted the score up at 79-79.
However, the brilliant inbounds play by Pnini to De Zeeuw from the baseline just to the side of the basket handed Holon the dramatic conquest, allowing it to advance to the Final Eight.