Hapoel Jerusalem captured the Israel Basketball League Championship with an 83-76 victory over Maccabi Haifa at Yad Eliyahu in Tel Aviv. Jerome Dyson took home the MVP honors with a 30 point performance going 6/9 from beyond the arc while Curtis Jerrells dropped 21 points shooting 5/8 from 3-point land. Tarence Kinsey played stifling defense and scored 19 points for Jerusalem as the trio of foreign guards combined for 70 of the Reds 83 points. Maccabi Haifa received a fine performance by defensive player of the season Gregory Vargas who scored 30 points in the losing cause.
The two sides played a tight first half of basketball as the teams headed into halftime all knotted up at 41. Dyson, who was inserted into Simone Pianigiani’s starting lineup after going down 0-2 in the quarterfinals series against Nahariya scored 14 points after 20 minutes to pace Jerusalem as Vargas and Orlando Mendez-Valdez dropped 11 points a piece to keep the Greens in the game.
However, just as they did in their semifinals series against Rishon Le’Zion, Hapoel came out flying in the second half taking a 13-point lead after three quarters of play thanks to an 11-point outburst by Dyson and 7-points from Kinsey. Haifa tried in vain to come back in the 4th quarter but it was not to be as Hapoel Jerusalem silenced the Greens and the league’s MVP John DiBartolomeo who was only able to score 6 points in 27 minutes of action as the Reds took home their 2nd Israel Basketball League title in the franchise’s history.
1) Jerome Dyson was the playoff MVP by more three million miles as the American guard took the bull by the horns once he was began to feature in Pianigiani’s starting lineup back in game 3 of the quarterfinal series against Nahariya. Down 0-2 to the northern team, Amare Stoudemire came back from injury which allowed the Reds to start both Howell and Dyson in place of Bar Timor and Travis Peterson. That move was key in pulling off five wins in a row to take home the championship. In Israeli basketball there needs to always be two Israelis on the court at all times and that limits the coach’s personnel moves as Dyson had been a regular to begin games in Europa where there is no such limitations.
2) Tarence Kinsey played lockdown unbelievable defense on John DiBartolomeo limiting him I just 6 points after being named the league’s MVP prior to the game. Kinsey had a chip on his shoulder especially when Vargas was named defensive player of the season and spoke to the Sports Rabbi during the locker room celebration:
“I want to thank my teammates, they put incredible effort in. The motivation we had, we could have quit and gone home after going down 0-2, but we went on and won a championship. When it comes to the defense man, I take it personally. They may have given it to Vargas but I know for a fact that I’m a better defensive player. I think I’m one of the best defenders in Europe and best two way players in Europe. When it comes to that I take it personally.”
Limiting DiBartolomeo and stepping up:
“Sorry I can’t pronounce his name, but number 12, I was not going to give him anything tonight. That was my goal. Respect to him, he’s a great player but I was going to cut his neck off. Someone else would have to step up for them, Vargas had a good game but it was not enough to get the win. I just respect everybody in this locker room, the coaches, our owner, they sat me, Curtis (Jerrells) and Jerome (Dyson) down and said it’s up to us and we stepped up. We took that pride and initiative, made big shots and committed on defense.”
Kinsey, Dyson & Jerrells combined for 70 of the team’s 83 points:
“Tell the president that we did what he wanted us to do, win the Final 4.”
3) Amare Stoudemire won his first ever league championship and it happened in Israel. Coming back from injury after being out for about a month changed the complexion of the team in more ways than one. Both on the court by changing the lineup and also through veteran leadership. Stat spoke to the Sports Rabbi as the 6 time NBA Allstar was smoking a cigar in the lockerroom:
“This feels great. To capture the moment here in israel is an amazing feeling and great accomplishment. We worked so hard this year, it’s been a roller coaster ride for us with new guys on the team, new coaching staff, we stayed together and got a championship.”
Keys to victory:
“Leadership qualities are very important. I had to make the guys refocused and tuned in and be sharp. With my experience of playing in the NBA for so long, I was able to accomplish all this through leadership. Energy spread it, confidence grew and we took it from there.”
Second title in the franchise’s history:
“I think it’s amazing and that the front office and ownership did a great job bringing in great players and creating a great atmosphere. We did our job to play for our coach, we were able to build something for the franchise and I hope that it will all continue to grow.”
If one was to look at the key moment this season for Jerusalem it was perhaps the acquisition of Richard Howell from Hapoel Tel Aviv. The center received Israeli citizenship just before joining the Reds and his addition added a dimension to the team which they had been in search of; a player who could record a double-double in almost any game. I recall speaking to him after his first game and he said that he was excited to be in Jerusalem and be able to fight for a championship. He fought for one and won it. He also spoke to the Sports Rabbi:
“We played together and we played for one another. That’s one of the biggest things in winning a championship.”
The keys to victory:
“Aggressiveness & rebounding. We knew we had to knock down open jump shots but we had to match their intensity. They are a team that like to play physical and get away with a lot of stuff so we had to match that.”
Thoughts after going down 0-2 to Nahariya:
“It wasn’t over, we knew it wasn’t over. We felt like the momentum switched in our favor if we could win one game and we did it. I love how we stuck together. I think most teams give up after going down 0-2, but we stuck together. I love how we stuck together and that’s what makes the championship that much better.”