Jerusalem blasts Beer Sheva, Nes Ziona dismantles Eilat – Set up Semifinal Date

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Hapoel Jerusalem made easy work of their quarterfinal contest as they downed an overmatched Hapoel Beer Sheva 95-70. The Reds came out clicking on all cylinders and at times looked as if they were in mid-season form as J’Covan Brown scored 18 points and a trio of Suleiman Braimoh, Nimrod Levi and James Feldeine all scored 12 points.

However, the star of the show was center Mindaugas Kupsas with 15 points, 7 rebounds and 3 blocked shots. The Lithuanian big man who will be primarily used in Champions League action wouldn’t have been in the lineup if Tashawn Thomas had not been injured and took full advantage of the opportunity.

Nimrod Levi’s 8 first quarter points helped Jerusalem to a 25-16 first quarter lead as TJ Williams tried to keep Beer Sheva close with 9 points of his own. The Capital City Reds continued their fine defensive display in the seconds frame while J’Covan Brown and Tamir Blatt provided the offense as they went into halftime up by 15, 48-33.

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Suleiman Braimoh and Mindaugas Kupsas helped increase the Jerusalem lead to 69-51 in the third quarter as Williams continued to top the Beer Sheva scoresheet with 24 points after thirty minutes while Brown put on the fourth quarter finishing touches for a 25 point victory.

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Jerusalem wanted to make sure that they improved in certain areas going into the new season to ensure that they would be able to compete for all of the titles. One of those places was at the center position by having a player that could stand up to the 7” footers in the Champions League.

“I’m happy with my performance but I’m happier that we won as we keep going towards the title,” explained Kupsas. “I’m happy to help the players and that we can continue to forge forward with me on the court. The chemistry is great and we’re all fighting and working as we try to reach our goals. I’m excited for the next game and can’t wait for it to start.”

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Coach Katash was pleased with the team effort and also Kupsas’s performance, “We want to put an emphasis on defense this season and play more aggressively. Winning the battle on the boards (49-38) was significant as was handing out 26 assists which was a good team effort. I dressed Kupsas because Tashwn Thomas was injured and I felt that I needed to play Kupsas more. Our big man are very active on both sides of the court and for them to play 5-6 minutes in a row isn’t easy.”

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Raviv Limonad reminded everyone how familiar he is with the Drive In baskets as the veteran guard carved up Hapoel Eilat for 19 points in an 86-76 Nes Ziona victory. The 35-year old guard didn’t show his age as he returned to his old stomping ground, one where he starred with Hapoel Tel Aviv to help guide his new team to the Winner Cup semifinals.

Nadav Zilberstein’s squad who will also compete in the FIBA Europe Cup was far superior than a young and inexperienced Eilat side as Golan Gutt added 13 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists while Jeremy Hollowell chipped in with 15 points and 10 assists in the win. Eric Thompson with 14 points and Kyvon Davenport with 12 points led Arik Alfasi’s side that will need a lot of work going forward if they want to duplicate last season’s accomplishments.

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Nes Ziona ran out to a 24-19 lead after ten minutes on the strength of Limonad’s 7 points and Jeff Withey’s 6. Geoff Gray helped Eilat to a 28-27 advantage with a pair of triples less than two minutes into the second quarter, but his subsequent unsportsmanlike foul on Corey Fisher led Nes Ziona to a 28-8 run and a 55-36 lead after twenty minutes.

Kyvon Davenport and Avi Ben Chimol paced Eilat in the third quarter to cut the Nes Ziona lead to 75-66 but Limonad made sure that would be as close as the Red Sea side would get as Nadav Zilberstein’s squad went on to win 87-76.

I’ll split the game into two,” began Zilberstein following the game. “We had some really good minutes in the first half and went on a huge run to end the second quarter. We didn’t play as well in the second half but we knew how to come back and showed our intensity when Eilat cut the lead to 8-9 points.”