Hapoel Jerusalem defeated Fuenlabrada 91-77 to improve their Champions League record to 9-2. Amare Stoudemire was the star of the show for the Reds with 19 points and 10 rebounds while Chris Johnson added 15 points and Tashawn Thomas chipped in 13 points in the win. Josh Agkongon scored 26 points for the visitor’s.
Rockingly vicious dunkaroos by Stoudemire and Thomas gave Jerusalem a 13-8 lead midway through the first frame as STAT drilled home a three pointer at the buzzer to give the host’s a 27-13 advantage after ten minutes. Tamir Blatt and Thomas made sure the Reds remained ahead of Fuenlabrada 47-36 while Stoudemire clocked in with 12 points and 6 boards twenty minutes into the contest.
The visitor’s cut the Jerusalem lead to just 7-points, 60-53 with 2:33 left in the third quarter but Johnson drained a triple for his first points since the first quarter to give Oded Katash’s squad a 66-55 lead after thirty minutes of action while Akognon’s game total rose to 24 points for Fuenlabrada. Back-to-Back-to-Back buckets by Amare, Thomas and a Yogev Ohayon layup gave Jerusalem a 72-55 lead with 8 minutes left in the game and limited Akognon to just two 4th quarter points as the host’s wrapped up a 91-77 victory.
1) It’s clear that Amare Stoudemire is the ultimate game changer for Hapoel Jerusalem. STAT, who is only playing in the Basketball Champions League European competition and not the Israeli league is clearly head and shoulders above the majority of players in most probably both leagues. It’s not only a pity that he’s not playing in Israel as Jerusalem awaits for him to obtain citizenship as to not use up one of the team’s foreigner slots it’s a also a shame because he’s just such a good player that provides the team passion and leadership on the court. Sure he’s at the Israeli League games but he’s not as effective when he’s dressed in street clothes and is sitting behind the players bench. I’m also certain that he’s dying to play as well. With the upcoming State Cup semifinals match against Hapoel Holon on the horizon, I asked Coach Katash if there’s a chance that they will register him for the competition, “As of now it’s not something we are planning to do or have made a decision about. As of now it’s not slated to happen.”
2) That being said, it’s crystal clear to everyone what Amare is able to do on the court as he finished with a double-double against Fuenlabrada and provided the extra emotion and passion to will his team to victory as he has done throughout his career. After a Fuenlabrada basket, he slammed the ball down in disgust and made sure everyone got on the same page and fast, “When it’s time to win your passion comes out. We know how important these games are and we still have a chance to take first place in the group. We can’t have any slippages in the games. We know how good we are and we have so many great players on the team that we play really high level basketball and we’re trying to win as a team. When the stakes get high it’s time for the competitive spirit to come out and that’s what happened.”
3) Oded Katash knows full well that Amare Stoudemire is the missing ingredient to his recipe. He knows what Stoudemire can do on and off the court and what type of leadership the veteran center can give especially in the fine shape he is in in his mid-30’s. “Amare is a very special player and that’s clear to everyone. His practices and his workouts which he does five times a week is something else. His passion is contagious. He has charisma, they had a run and Amare said what he had to in front of everyone. He’s a leader and our leader especially in European games. We also have other players who can do this in the league, but Amare is very special and when he will eventually play in the Israeli League as an Israeli or foreigner he will add a lot.”
James Feldeine, who is fresh off of signing a two year contract extension spoke exclusively to The Sports Rabbi about the victory and Amare Stoudmire’s influence on the team, “We beat that team badly on the road and we knew that they would come or with a vengeance which they did for a bit but we played our hearts out and we figured out how to stop them although Josh Akognon got off, but we stopped the other players.”
“He’s big man. He may be 36 but he plays like he’s 26. He plays with a lot of emotion and passion and it rubs off on us for sure and it showed today that him playing like that today really helps us.”
Amare’s status with the team and that he’s not playing in the Israeli league:
“It’s tough man. If he had his citizenship it would be much easier. But I heard that it’s a long process, hopefully it will get done starting soon so he can get accustomed to the Israeli refs and Israeli games which is a lot different than Europe. but we need him. He one of our big guys and main players.”
Being a game changer for Hapoel Jerusalem:
“Of course he’d be a game changer, he’s Amare Stoudemire. He does a lot of things on the court that a lot of people don’t see, it’s not about his points and not about his rebounds. When he’s out there he’s a presence, people are scared of him just because of that. It helps me and everybody else. He’s definitely a presence.”