1) Maccabi Ashdod 95-97 Hapoel Beer Sheva 2OT
Hapoel Beer Sheva just squeaked by an undermanned Maccabi Ashdod 97-95 thanks to Semaj Christon’s game winner with no time left on the clock to advance to the Winner Cup finals where they will play Maccabi Rishon Le’Zion on Thursday night at 21:00 at the Drive In Arena in Tel Aviv.
In a back and forth game, Beer Sheva outlasted an upstart Ashdod. Semaj Christon led Rami Hadar’s squad with 30 points and 11 assists while Travis Warech added 19 points and Taylor Braun chipped in with 15 points (8 turnovers) as the Southern Reds shot an impressive 16/32 from long distance. Ashdod’s Landon Milbourne scored 34 points, Ike Rosefelt dropped 25 points and added 11 rebounds while Tom Maayan scored 13 points (9 turnovers) for Brad Greenberg’s side in defeat.
Fast toward to the end of regulation, Milbourne drained a 3-pointer after stealing the Beer Sheva inbounds pass with 2 seconds left to draw even at 77-77 as Christon’s last gasp effort to win the game in regulation fell short. As the first overtime period came to the final minute, Milbourne hit a gorgeous turn around jumper from the free throw line but Semaj Christon drove into the paint for a layup to draw Beer Sheva even at 86-86. A foul sent Rosefelt to the line with 5.8 seconds left but the naturalized American missed both free throws as the game headed into a second overtime.
Warech drilled a quick 3-pointer to begin the second overtime as the squads once again fought for every ball tooth and nail. With the game tied at 95-95, Christon hit the game winner with no time left on the clock sending Beer Sheva into the finals of the Winner Cup preseason tournament.
Hapoel Jerusalem 81-92 Maccabi Rishon Le’Zion
Maccabi Rishon Le’Zion blew out Hapoel Jerusalem to secure their place in the Winner Cup Finals against the newly promoted Hapoel Beer Sheva. The game was never in doubt as Zvika Sherf’s squad took a 28-14 lead after ten minutes and never looked back. Rishon outplayed Jerusalem every which way hitting shot after shot including some circus like 3 pointers from Egor Koulechov to run away with the win. Deshawn Stephens (19p/7r), Cameron Long (17p/9a) and Koulechov (16p) led Rishon while James Feldeine and Tamir Blatt each scored 16 points in the loss.
1) Gotta give credit to Ashdod for putting up a massive fight against Beer Sheva and credit to Beer Sheva for finding a way to pull out the win. Brad Greenberg’s side was massively undermanned missing a number of key players including Paul Stoll, Spencer Weisz and Mark Tollefsen but we’re able to stand tough against Rami Hadar’s quality squad. And that’s exactly how the southern reds won, with quality in Semaj Christon. “It was a long and tough game but we stuck together, we said if we’d stick together we’d be alright. They kept hitting with shots every time we’d get away from them they’d keep coming back. But we stuck together and I hit the last shot.” Christon certainly hit the last shot as time expires in the second overtime to take the victory. I think that this was just another stamp of approval for a player that is ticketed to being a star in Israel this coming season.
2) “I played five years in college and I was one of the older players as a senior at Florida and Rice. I haven’t felt a major difference other than maybe a bit of the physicality.” Egor Koulechov helped lead Rishon LeZion to a terrific start and has looked much older than a first year professional. He’s been able to meld right into Zvika Sherf’s game plan with solid professionals in Cameron Long, Deshawn Stephens and Marquis Wright and hasn’t looked out of place one bit. Maccabi Tel Aviv and Hapoel Jerusalem would have loved to have such a player on their roster and they tried to pry him away from Rishon over the summer, but the team held firm and made sure that he spends his first year with them. It’s a win-win for both the player and the club. Getting a chance to learn under the tutelage of Sherf and not having to play under the intense spotlight of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.
3) Hapoel Jerusalem was hit with the perfect storm and fell behind quickly going down 28-14 after the first quarter and never really got back into the game. Is it the end of the world to be bounced from the tournament? Not really. Sure, everyone wants to win, but now Coach Oded Katash can focus on their first league game at Bnei Herzliya on Sunday and a super tough Champions League opener on the road in Athens against AEK. The loss may have been a blessing in disguise, allowing Jerusalem more time to properly prepare for their upcoming,ing contests. I asked both Katash and Chris Johnson what positives they could take from the difficult game, “We have a really good team and we have to stay together during the ups and downs,” Johnson explained. Katash was content that the team kept plugging away throughout the final 3 quarters, “We didn’t give up and we always felt that we could ave come back. Once we settled down we had some quality offensive sets, but I didn’t like many things on the defensive side.”
Oz Blayzer is the Rishon LeZion Captain after spending the last there seasons playing in green for Maccabi Haifa. Always a top guy, he couldn’t have been given a bigger honor to lead his new team, “It’s a huge honor for me and to be the captain of this club. I’ll do everything in my power to help the team succeed, that the players are happy and be a team. I’ll do my utmost to make sure that this is the case.”
2) The Israel National Football Team named their squad for their upcoming Nations League Matches against Scotland and Albania.
The players called up:
Keepers – Ariel Harush, Guy Haimov, Dani Amos
Defenders – Taleb Tawhatcha, Ben Bitton, Sheran Yeini, Eli Dasa, Shir Tzedek, Ayed Habshi, Eitan Tibi, Omri Ben Harush
Midfielders – Dan Einbinder, Dor Micha, Dan Glazer, Dor Peretz, Manor Solomon, Beram Kayla, Bibras Natcho
Forwards – Eran Zahavi, Tomer Hemed, Monas Dabbur, Muhammad Awaed, Dia Saba