Hapoel Jerusalem punched their ticket to the Israel State Cup Final on Thursday night with a dominating 91-77 semifinal win over defending Cup holders Hapoel Holon. The Reds were firing on all cylinders out of the gate in their home arena as J’Covan Brown and James Feldeine led the way with 22 and 21 points respectively, while Tashawn Thomas added 14 points and 9 rebounds in the win. Corey Walden scored 15 points and veteran Guy Pnini chipped in with 13 points in the defeat.
Holon’s Pnini entered the contest looking looking to capture his 12th State Cup and opened the scoring for his team with a 3-pointer but Jerusalem grabbed a 25-20 lead after ten minutes as Brown scored 6 points and Feldeine added 5 points in the frame. With the score 30-30 midway through the second quarter, Jerusalem went on a 15-5 run as Josh Owens provided some highlight dunks and Brown punctuated the half with a last second triple to give the Reds a 48-38 advantage after twenty minutes.
Jerusalem raced out to a 10-0 run after the break and took a 20-point, 58-38 lead with Feldeine playing the catalyst while Pnini picked up his 4th foul to the delight of the Jerusalem crowd. The cup host’s continued to pour on the offense as Brown, Thomas and Feldeine gave Katash’s side a 75-58 advantage heading into the 4th quarter. The Reds continued to score off Holon turnovers and on fast-breaks in the final frame as they recorded the 14-point 91-77 victory to earn their place in the Cup final.
1) Jerusalem was flying around the court like there was no tomorrow; and that’s how they should play in a winner take all game. You win you move on, you lose, you go home. And there was no way Katash and crew were thinking about going home. The Reds why were wearing black flexed their muscles on their home court and ran away with the win by killing the game just minutes into the second half. All season long we’ve been waiting to see them kill the game and they finally did it, especially when it really counted. The coach was content with the win, “I’m happy with the win and I’m proud as to how we came into the game. We knew it wasn’t going to be easy as we played against a very good team who have plenty of dangerous weapons. But our work is only half done as we have to now get ready for Thursday’s Final.”
2) J’Covan Brown was just terrific. He was fabulous going 7/14 which included 3 triples, pulled down 7 boards and dished out 6 assists. I asked Brown if they were going into the Final to play to win the Cup or to play not to lose it especially after two losses to Rishon this season, “We want to the Cup. Rishon is a good team and they beat us but we have to stick to our game plan together for 40 minutes to win the game on Thursday.” Katash also referenced the question, “We are going to play to win and not okay scared that we will lose.” Finally, I asked Katash what he saw in Brown to want to sign him over the summer, “He’s a player with a tremendous amount of upside. And especially after the playoff he had against us, I told him that I was happy to have him with us now!”