Guest blog written by one of our “on-the-ground” reporters and bloggers, Logan Schiciano.

Grit. Hustle. Relentlessness. Determination. These traits were all on display in the Juniors’ Boys’ opening game defeat of Turkey on Wed., July 31. The contest was one of runs, highs and lows for both sides that saw Team Maccabi USA win by a score of 61-44.

Although it was late in the day—tip-off was at 7:35 PM., the Turks came out energized, jumping out to a 5-2 lead. Team Maccabi USA would stall and during a stretch where they went scoreless for over six minutes, they struggled to keep possession. The team made several mistakes including dribbling out-of-bounds, backcourt violations, shot-clock violations and airballs. Head Coach Scott Berman who called a timeout less than five minutes into the game, explained the message he gave his team. “I told them ‘You’re all good players. You’re all here [at the European Maccabi Games] for a reason. Calm down and enjoy it.” .

The team managed to turn it around and forward Jerrod Meltzer of Chapel Hill, NC led the charge. Jerrod scored eight straight points for Maccabi USA between the end of the first quarter and start of the second quarter. During that stretch, three of his four buckets came in the paint. “We had an advantage inside. We were bigger than them [Turkey] and stronger. We needed to get the ball down low and when we did that, Jerrod and others took over,” Coach Berman said, noting that the team finished the game with 46 points in the paint. 

Riding Jerrod’s good play on offense, the team buckled down on the other end of the court as well, going on a 20-6 run to conclude the first half. Players such as Daniel Abbo and Yosef Zakon made key defensive plays. A blocked shot by Daniel led to an easy transition hoop and on another possession, Yosef dove every-which-way on the floor, wrestling for the ball, and eventually nailed a short jumper inside to cap it off. “Even though we didn’t play our best, we still went after every loose ball. That helped us extend our lead,” Jerrod said. 

A 22-11 halftime margin was broadened midway through the third quarter and with four minutes left in the period, Team Maccabi USA had a 14-point advantage. However, Turkey didn’t back down. One of their team’s players, Can Habib drilled two three-pointers on back-to-back possessions, and after a free-throw, USA was only up by seven points. That was as close as Turkey got in the remainder of the contest, as Maccabi USA responded immediately with a 13-2 run to close out the third quarter. The game would conclude with a score of 61-44. 

The team only shot 12 percent from three-point range and 33 percent from two in the contest, but Daniel noted that there are other things a player can do to have an impact on the court. “There’s always a way to do something better, so you have to step up your game in a different way.” The Fort Lauderdale native finished the game with just eight points, but also hauled in 14 boards, had four steals, five assists and five blocked shots.

Jerrod was the games leading scorer with an efficient 24 points (63 percent from the field) and also racked up 14 rebounds.

Coach Berman said he expects much more out of his team in their next game which will take place on Thurs., Aug. 1, at 7:30 PM against Germany.