Hapoel Jerusalem defeated Maccabi Tel Aviv 98-92 in overtime in a heated affair at the PAIS Arena in Jerusalem. The Reds came into the contest shorthanded without J’Covan Brown, Lior Eliyahu and Chris Johnson after just being eliminated from European competition by Tenerife while the yellow-and-blue has also just been bounced from continental play last week.
Tipping off for the third time this season, the big story going into the game was the big man matchup between Maccabi’s Tarik Black and Jerusalem’s Amare Stoudemire. However, it was a one-sided affair as STAT dominated the paint with 22 points, James Feldeine hit 23 points from the outside and Tashawn Thomas recorded 18 points to help coach Oded Katash’s squad to the victory. Scottie Wilbekin led coach Ioannis Sfairpoulos’s team with 22 points, John DiBartolomeo added 21 points and Johnny O’Bryant scored 15 points in the loss.
A pair for 3-pointers by both Wilbekin and O’Bryant gave Maccabi an early 16-11 lead midway through the first quarter. Feldeine tried to keep the Reds close with 8 points but the yellow-and-blue extended their advantage to 27-18 after ten minutes.
Thomas and Stoudemire helped put some life back into Jerusalem to cut the Maccabi lead to five points, but baskets by Jeremy Pargo and Yovel Zoosman brought the lead back up to 36-27 four minutes into the second quarter. A Jerusalem 9-2 run was capped off by an Alex Chubrevich midrange jumper to pull the host’s to within two, 38-36 with 2:56 remaining in the half. Both sides exchanged buckets for the balance of the frame as the yellow-and-blue took a slim 43-42 lead into halftime.
Stoudemire came out flying to start to the second half as he scored a quick 7 points to tie up the game at 49-49 midway through the third quarter. Tamir Blatt drained a triple to give the Reds a 57-54 lead with 3:09 left in the frame but rough and tumble play for the balance of the frame set up a decisive 4th quarter with the score all knotted up at 61-61.
Feldeine jumped started Katash’s squad in the final frame as they grabbed a 70-65 lead with 6:22 left in the game. Maccabi tried to find their rhythm but another Stoudemire dunk gave the Reds a 80-72 advantage with just 1:45 remaining in the contest. However, triples by Wilbekin and DiBartolomeo made it 80-80 with 27.1 seconds to go as the tilt headed into overtime.
DiBartolomeo and Thomas traded baskets but a Feldeine 3-pointer have Jerusalem a 92-89 lead with just 1:14 in the extra session. DiBartolomeo closed the gap but Feldeine once again showed up in money time to hit a another triple to seal the deal for the Reds 98-92.
1) He’s Amare Stoudemire 1 – Gotta give HUGE CREDIT to Hapoel Jerusalem for coming out and playing one heck of a game without a number of key players and after a long trip to Tenerife where they crashed out of the Champions League. Not only is there a big mental aspect at play but there’s also the physical when playing a team to whom you’ve already lost to twice and were dominated on the inside. However, that was all before Amare Stoudemire became an Israeli citizen and fit like a glove in the paint for the Reds. Maccabi Coach Sfairpoulos saw first hand what kind of game changer STAT can be, “He has quality, it was his first game against us and he was extra motivated. He got a lot of points from inside the paint and we have to be more dominant in our paint and not allow our opponents to easily score on the inside.” Jerusalem coach Katash also commented about his the big man can change up a game, “There’s no question that Amare as an Israeli allows to play a much bigger lineup and his presence helps us.” James Feldeine also spoke about how Amare was able to influence the game, “He’s a big factor, he’s Amare Stoudemire, NBA Allstar. He brings a high level of leadership and intensity on the court. He helps us on the court big time.”
2) He’s Amare Stoudemire 2 – Amare was able to matchup against Tarik Black in what was highly anticipated battle of the big men and scored a HUGE KNOCKOUT. Stoudemire was by far the better player and dropped 22 points in his first game against Maccabi Tel Aviv this season. Both players were excited to have had the chance to play one another yet again and Amare even signed his jersey and sent it Black before leaving the arena. “It felt good,” began Black. “But we’ve matched up against each other before and it’s an ongoing thing that I’m very humbled that I had the opportunity to do.” Amar’e also talked about tipping off with Black, “It felt like an NBA matchup and it was definitely a beautiful thing to be able to compete at a high level with Tarik Black.”
3) James Feldeine did not get off to a great start and ended the game going 6/20 from the field but his 7/8 from the line and his clutch baskets near the end of the game was why Jerusalem was able to pull out the win. Watching Feldeine play ball is most of the time a thing of beauty and when the chips are down most of the time you can count on him to cash them in and find a way to win. It’s his will and desire that sets him apart from most players and that’s why Jerusalem is fortunate to have sewed up his services for two more years. Coach Katash talked about the qualities Feldeine brings to the table, “James is an excellent player and his personality is even greater for us and for the fans. He will be here for another two years after he extended his contract and feels at home. He’s a player that has so much confidence that a bad game or half won’t influence him. He will always be there for us, sometimes it won’t work out but he will always take responsibility and we’re very glad that he is part of the team.” Feldeine also spoke about finding a way to quickly move on from the Tenerife loss, “It was tough for the last couple of days. This was a big win for us and they had beaten us twice this season and I know how important the rivalry is for the fans. We started the game slow and we couldn’t get up. But I’m happy that the guys closed the gap in the second quarter. I’m proud of the effort that we made as a team.”
For Maccabi this was well just another defeat and their second in a row in game that they really should have never lost especially with a number of players out for the Reds. Is it a lack of desire? Is it a lack of urgency? Is it a lack of intensity? Is it a lack of intensity? Or is it just a combination of all of the above? Yellow & Blue Captain John DiBartolomeo looked back at the defeat, “We can always be more aggressive and play with more intensity and we have to maintain it for a full forty minutes. Everyone has to ready when their number is called to play as hard as they can and as long as they can until it’s time to switch.” Coach Sfairpoulos also summed up the loss, “This was a very close game and the team that would make the last mistake at the end would lose the game. We were very concentrated at the end of the game and we came back and had the momentum. But we then gave up some easy points, 18 in the last five minutes and we couldn’t match that number offensively. We have two losses in a row and we have to react to that.” Black as well knows that the team needs to get back in track or they’ll miss the train, “We’re going to come back tomorrow and we’re going to get it right. We have two months left and training is moving and we have to keep moving as the train is moving or else it will leave you behind.”
For Jerusalem this was a very important character win and one that Katash must certainly be very content about after taking the victory shorthanded and following last week’s European exit. It also should be noted that the Reds had a very tough time against Maccabi as well, so there must be some sense of satisfaction about beating the Yellow & Blue, “Maccabi is a very good side with a lot of quality. You never know where it’s going to come from and they have some dominant Israelis that can influence the game. This win was very important for us and we were able to break through to take the victory.” Amar’e also reflected in why this was such an important win for the club, “It’s very important as we were still mourning the loss at Tenerife. We know how much we wanted to go into the Final Four here at home but we came out tonight composure and we got the win.” STAT continued, “Tonight was definitely a good game for us a group but there are so many ways that I can still improve and effect the game in a positive way. One thing I like about tonight’s game is that I see areas where I can be dominant and I’m going to take that into consideration and keep learning.”