Hapoel Jerusalem defeated Hapoel Eilat 83-74 at the Pais Arena. The Red Sea City squad kept the game close throughout the forty minutes as they looked to pull off the upset, but Oded Katash’s team was able to keep the lead during the fourth quarter when Eilat pulled to within four points to come away with the victory. Tamir Blatt led the Reds with 15 points, Bar Timor added 13 points and James Feldeine chipped in with 12 points. Kyvon Davenport scored 25 points while Jonathan Skoljebrand notched 16 points and Eric Thompson added 15 points in the defeat.
Jerusalem and Eilat got off to a sluggish start in the first quarter but five quick points from Bar Timor gave the hosts a 12-5 lead. Kyvon Davenport kept his team in the game with four points, but layups by James Feldeine and Idan Zalmanson gave the Reds a 17-13 lead after ten minutes of play.
Tamir Blatt went off for a trio of triples to get the second quarter underway while Eric Thompson and Rafi Menco countered for the Red Sea City squad as Oded Katash’s team went ahead 28-22 midway through the frame. Brown and Feldeine drilled home 3-pointers and Suleiman Briamoh scored inside as Jerusalem went into halftime up 45-31.
Menco and Thompson scored for Eilat while Zalmanson and Braimoh notched points for Jerusalem as the hosts stayed in front 54-43 with five minutes remaining in the third quarter. Timor hit a triple but Davenport scored at the other end while a pair of 3’s by Jonathan Skjoldebrand pulled Eilat to within 7-points, 61-54 at the end of thirty minutes.
Feldeine and Briamoh put down layups for Jerusalem by Eilat continued to hang around with Menco and Skoljebrand 3-pointers but Zalmanson hit a jumper in the paint and Blatt wet deep from beyond the arc to keep the Reds in the lead 70-64 midway through the fourth quarter. Points by J’Covan Brown and an uncontested bucket under the basket by Nimrod Levi helped Jerusalem take the 83-74 victory.
1) Jerusalem looked like they were still somewhere between Athens and the Holy City for most of this game as Oded Kastah’s squad may have won the game but were unimpressive at best while doing so. The Reds looked out of sync and slow at times, allowing Eilat to come to within four points in the final frame. But at the end of the day, Jerusalem just has more quality than most teams and can win with that quality more often than not. “It was an ugly game for us,” Feldeine said. “We came out slow and played the whole game slow. We didn’t have the intensity. It was tough to come home after the loss to AEK.” Coach Katash echoed his co-captain’s sentiments, “We didn’t have energy and we had trouble finding our pace but we did enough to win which is important.” At the end of the day, Jerusalem won and that is what was most important from this game.
2) Tashawn Thomas going down in the second half with an ankle injury isn’t good news to say the least for Jerusalem as their big man is a force on both ends of the court. The Reds may not have Champions League action on Wednesday night this week but they do have a date with Maccabi Rishon Le’Zion who is playing excellent ball of late and will definitely be a difficult test should the team be without Thomas and of course Trent Lockett who is out due to personal reasons. However, the Reds can’t keep using absences as excuses anymore; one game maybe two, but the facts are the facts and Jerusalem just like any other team have to find a way around missing players. If it’s registering Mindaugas Kupsas and or Isaiah Cousins, or bringing in another player, Guy Harel and Oded have to look at all of the available options. Katash spoke about the club’s plans but began once again being short and not having Lockett available, “We were short and Tashawn went down as well plus we didn’t have Trent Lockett. It’s clear that we have to do something but we have to make the right move and not just make a move because we have to. The Lockett situation has put us in a situation that we have to do something and hopefully we will do something soon.”
3) Eilat played a terrific second half and Coach Arik Alfasi was certainly content with his team’s efforts especially being down a foreigner, “Other than the last couple of minutes in the second quarter we held strong and we came very close on the last quarter. We feel we missed an opportunity but I’m proud of the players who came out to play as they gave it their all. We played some good minutes and we did damage in the paint against a team that has three quality bigs. We are working on bringing a foreigner and we are looking for a guard, when we find the right player it will take off some pressure from the other players.” In regards to having won 4 games in the first round of matches, Alfasi had mixed feelings but was happy as to where his team is headed, “I’m not satisfied with just four wins as we could have won a couple of other games. The league is very tight and we can make the playoffs which is our goal that we set at the start of the season. We are playing well and going the right direction.”
It was evident that the game against AEK still had an effect on the players, however, Idan Zalmanson didn’t feel that the defeat in Athens played a part on their lack of energy against Eilat, “I don’t think so. Even after wins we don’t sit and dwell on the games that much but we definitely didn’t play with maximum energy and we now have a couple of intensive weeks where we have league games. Rishon is a excellent team and it won’t be easy just like the games after that against Holon, Beer Sheva and Nahariya. Every game is tough and we have to come with the right mindset.”
Tamir Blatt also knows it won’t be an easy game at Rishon, “They are an excellent team and we will have to really get ready for this contest. I haven’t watched them yet in film but I’m sure nice we do then the staff will come up with the correct decisions to make sure we are ready.” Feldeine was certainly happy to get a day off on Sunday and then get back to work for Rishon, “We have to get our mind off of basketball a bit and come to work. We have to find the energy and we know it’s a big game and it will be a packed house. We will have to play our basketball.”