Hapoel Jerusalem defeated Brose Bamberg 103-89 on Gameday 13 of Champions League action to move their record to 11-2 and secure home court advantage when the Round of 16 begins in March. Amare Stoudemire led the way for the Reds with 19 points, Da’Sean Butler dropped 15 points while Tamor Blatt scored 17 points and recorded 8 assists in the win. Augustine Rubit was the high scorer for Bamberg with 16 points.
Jerusalem started the game off well as Butler went to work on the Bamberg defense giving the Reds a 9-2 lead after four minutes of action. But the German’s Elias Harris led a 9-0 as the first quarter ended with the Reds clinging to a 18-17 lead. Stoudemire was key for Oded Katash’s squad in the 2nd quarter as Jerusalem took a 29-24 lead midway through the frame and triples by Blatt, Brown, Feldeine and a pair by Butler gave the host’s a 17-3 run to head into halftime ahead 52-33.
The Reds held serve for most of the third quarter thanks to Stoudemire’s play but J’Covan Brown fouled out and picked up a technical foul as Rubit and Bamberg began to chip away at the lead to go into the final frame down by 14 points 74-60. Another Jerusalem technical this time by coach Katash and an unsportsmanlike foul to Tashawn Thomas cut the Jerusalem lead further but the Reds pulled it together thanks to three triples by Blatt and a pair by Bar Timor to take the victory.
1) Tamir Blatt was tremendous in crunch time with huge three pointers and big assists to help lead the 4th quarter charge and keep Jerusalem together. Add to that Bar Timor who came in cold and drilled home a pair from beyond the arc and the two Israeli guards saved the Reds bacon as they say. Katash was very happy with Timor’s ability to just come into the game and really make an impact, “It’s not easy to come off the bench in the 30th minute with the energy he had. Bar played like a man and I liked how he played.”
2) Why did Bar Timor need to come off the bench? Because J’Covan Brown fouled out as Jerusalem began to get emotionally wrapped up the game and technicals and intentional fouls were called against the Reds raising the level of frustration. I asked Katash as to why he left Brown in the game with 4 fouls in the 3rd quarter, “The players also have to know how to deal with these situations. He asked me to stay in the game and I trusted him. He knows that if the staff relies on you and keeps you in the game, you have to act properly. He also has to control his emotions and frustration which he knows and we spoke about this following the game. This is also something that he needs to experience and hopefully next time he’ll be able to deal with.” Da’Sean Butler also spoke about the influence emotions can have on the game itself, “When you play the game, guys get emotional but you still have to keep your focus. There was a certain point where we got a technical and intentional foul, but we knew the most important thing is to win the game. You can get emotional but keeping your cool is the most important thing.”
3) Josh Owens also spoke about knowing how to calm things down and make sure that emotions don’t get in the way of a victory, “We came out and executed our game plan in the first two quarters. In the 3rd quarter we let it get away from us and we had to refocus but we were able to be mature and close out the game. It’s all about knowing that it’s a game of runs and momentum swings. We got a mature and experienced team that knows when we need to lock in and execute and we did that to get the win.” Owens also spoke about securing home court advantage, “Finishing at the top of the group was one of our goals but being able to finish in second falls short of first but still gives us home court advantage. We love our fans and they bring a lot to the games. The atmosphere and a lot of energy, so it will be exciting to play in front of them.” However, Coach Katash isn’t going to pay to much attention to the fact that the second game of two in the playoffs will be on their home court, “Having the home game as the second game doesn’t make that much of difference like it does in soccer.”
How can we not mention Amare Stoudemire? Once again STAT was dominant for Jerusalem scoring 19 points in 16 minutes. He’s just one bad boy basketball player that has just been fabulous all season long in the Champions League. His leadership on the court and when he’s on the bench is absolutely incredible and the fans adore his every move as they chant his name throughout the game. Amare always looks to be in complete control and is certainly the missing link when it comes to the Israeli league especially in games like the loss in Nahariya earlier this week. His presence is the ultimate game changer and the team certainly knows it, but they are waiting for him to be granted citizenship, the process of which is underway. This past week he received the status of resident alien and is one step closer but who knows how long it will take and with the State Cup tournament coming up in February I’m sure the Reds would like to have his services sooner rather than later. They can register him as a foreign player but that would eat up one of the 8 spots which means they would only have one more place to sign another player. If I’m Jerusalem and I have the option to play with Amare in the Cup, I register him. If I can win a title and I have the biggest game changer on the sidelines, then why wouldn’t I want win at all costs? That’s a question Jerusalem will have to answer if STAT doesn’t play in those games and they don’t take home the title.