Hapoel Jerusalem defeated Hapoel Holon 108-99 breaking the century mark for the third game in a row. After a tight first half, the Reds pulled away in the final frame to record the victory. James Feldeine led all scorers with 26 points, J’Covan Brown added 19 points with five triples while Tamir Blatt had 18 points along with 5 three pointers as well. Corey Walden was the high scorer for Holon with 19 points Dequan Jones chipped in with 17 points and Darion Atkins had 16 points in the loss.
Blatt with a pair of triples helped Jerusalem open up a 11-4 lead midway through the first quarter but Walden answered back quickly to pull Holon to within 1-point, 15-14 forcing Oded Katash to call a timeout with 4:25 remaining in the first quarter. Amare Stoudemire came on and scored five straight points for the Reds but Holon ended the frame on top 24-22.
Blatt continued his scoring spree while Feldeine chipped in on the attack for Jerusalem, but Scottie Reynolds and Dequan Jones answered back for Holon as they stayed out in from 33-22 halfway through the second quarter. Atkins supplied to offense to take a 43-36 lead but Jerusalem stormed right back to gain the advantage on the strength of a trio of triples by Brown to go along with a gorgeous alley-oop pass to Josh Owens as Katash’s squad took a 50-47 lead after twenty minutes.
Feldeine came out of the break on fire and extended the Jerusalem lead to 61-56 midway through the third quarter. But Walden and Sean Jones cancelled out buckets by Stoudemire to pull within three points with under two minutes left in the frame. But a 7-0 run to end the quarter led by a Brown triple and free throws by Feldeine and Tashawn Thomas gave the Reds a 78-68 lead with ten minutes remaining in the contest.
Dan Shamir’s Holon ripped off a 6-0 run to begin the fourth quarter forcing Katash to call time just 1:39 into the final frame, however, Blatt buried a 3-pointer out of the break to kill the host’s momentum. Dequan Jones and Yogev Ohayon traded triples but a tomahawk dunk by Thomas kept Jerusalem out front as Blatt and Brown hit back to back 3’s to give the Reds an 11 point advantage with under 4 minutes to go as they never looked back to take home a 108-99 victory.
1) J’Covan Brown is back and back in a big way. The guard was fabulous for Jerusalem scoring 19 points and dishing out 5 assists in 23 minutes of action against Holon and played a major role in the win for Oded Katash’s squad. Brown not only brings energy but leadership onto the floor for the Reds which can’t be duplicated. He is a spark plug and comes up with a clutch basket every time his team needs it. “We came out and executed the game plan,” began Brown complimenting his teammates. “We wanted to play harder than the last time we were here.” He also spoke about the key to being able to score 100+ points in three straight games, “Fresh legs and we’re not playing two games a week. It’s a lot of rest and treatments. We just all feel rejuvenated. But we won’t be able to score 100 points every game so we will need to get stops on the other end.” Have the Reds sent a message to the rest of the league? “I think we’ve been peaking all season and we’ve had some losses here and there but I feel that we have been doing a great job all season. We just got to find ways to continue to play well and make it to the championship.” and finally, is Brown back in prime condition? “I feel like I need one more week of conditioning to get back into game shape. I’m taking my shots and coach and my team have a lot of confidence in me. I’ll just do my job.”
2) Katash is trilled to get Brown back into the squad and knows what type of leadership he brings to the table. When he wasn’t dressed and out injured, you could always find Brown right next to the assistant coaches holding a board or playbook. He lived the game trying to soak up as much as he could by being on the bench and helping out where needed. But of course Brown being back on the court is way more important for the team as they head into the stretch run, “Let’s just say we breathed a sigh of relief when J’Covan returned to play. His injury could have resulted in the end of his season. Anyone who lives this league and Jerusalem day in and day out understands that J’Covan is a key player for us. He’s also a leader in his own right. He gathered up all of the players two minutes before the start of the game for a quick talk and when I saw his leadership I knew that we would be alright.”
3) Dan Shamir lost a number of key players to injury who won’t be available for the final stages of the season. Guy Pnini, TJ Cline, Khalif Wyatt and Scotty Hopson won’t be around for the stretch run and that will make love that much more difficult for last year’s runner up. With Jerusalem winning, the Reds leapfrogged Holon into second place and Holon will need all hands on deck in order to make sure they don’t slip further and head into the playoffs in as best condition as possible. One of the players who will play an important role will be Dequan Jones who had been placed on the sidelines for a number of weeks after not performing up to par. Jones is certainly content with getting back into the swing of things for Holon scoring 17 points, “I think that’s a credit to the coaching staff and my teammates. In practice how I can be effective and help the guys. we’re short staffed so I have to help the bigs on the boards. It’s a credit to the staff and my teammates.” Shamir doesn’t believe that Jones will be the key but each and every single player will be need to be a contributor in order for them to succeed, “Due to the situation that we are in, every player is a key for us and not just Dequan. Every player who can make two great plays and score are critical for us.”
The shots were flying in Holon on a Friday afternoon, especially from beyond the arc. One after the other, bang, bang, bang as Jerusalem hit one triple after the next going an impressive 15/30 from 3-point land. Blatt and Brown with five each, Feldeine and Ohayon with a pair each plus one by Timor drowned Holon from the outside. Take a look at the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets in their game 6 of the Western Conference Semifinals going a combined 33/77 from deep. Just as in the rest of the world, in Israel the 3-pointer makes a huge impact on the game of basketball. “Most games around the world these days are decided by 3 point percentage,” explained Shamir. “They made 15 of 30 for 50% and there’s no question that this influences a game. We gave them some of those shots while some were difficult shots.”