Maale Adumim basketball team advances to national league

Maccabi Maale Adumim becomes first team from Judea and Samaria to play in either of the first two divisions of Israel Basketball.

Arutz Sheva Staff ,

Maccabi Maale Adumim
Maccabi Maale Adumim

The men’s basketball team from Maale Adumim made Israeli basketball history yesterday by defeating Lod 101-65 and advancing to the prestigious second league in Israel called the Leaga Leumit.

The trip to the second division will be the first in its brief 15 years in the Israeli Men’s Basketball Association and perhaps more significantly it is the first time a team from beyond the Green Line will participate in either of Israel’s top two men’s basketball leagues.

After defeating its biggest rival Maccabi Rechovot, two weeks ago, MA needed to win its last two games to assure it a spot in the next division. They got through a tough game against Shoham at home but completely obliterated Lod by 36 points in the last game. Head Coach Yair Gewirtz was ecstatic after the achievement and promised that MA would not rest until they reached the top league in Israel, Leagat Ha-al. “This is a tremendous accomplishment for my team, the management, and the city and this puts MA on the basketball map of Israel” said Gewirtz amid a showering of post-game champagne, compliments of his players.

Both Maccabi MA and Maccabi Rechovot ended up 22-2 on the season but MA ended on top outscoring them by ten in the two games they split during the season giving them the nod and their historic place among Israel’s basketball elite.

Maale Adumim Mayor, Benny Kashriel, attended the final game and was clearly excited about the prospects and ramifications for his city. “We are full of tremendous pride and thanks to all who worked so hard for us to get here” blushed Kashriel after the game.

For Head Coach Yair Gewirtz this was a culmination of the many years he played youth and men’s basketball for the city captaining and ultimately coaching the team throughout their 15-year run-up to the second division. Gewirtz's squad underachieved in his first year as head coach, suffering through injuries and bad fortune, but he held the undermanned squad together for a surprising fourth-place finish before this year’s historic run.

The team has some very talented players like Barak Orion and Bar Shefa, the son of former Israeli Basketball star Doron Shefa, but all year long the key player for Gewirtz's squad was ironically an American player who starred on the last year's historic Yeshiva University team in New York. Simcha Halpert joined the team shortly after the Division III NCAA tournament abruptly ended due to the pandemic, cutting short YU’s incredible run but he quickly signed on with Maale Adumim and became the focal point of the team and its leading scorer. Now with their promotion, they will be looking to sign some top foreign players and hoping to continue their journey to the pinnacle of Israeli basketball.