Hapoel Jerusalem defeated Hapoel Gilboa/Galil 94-81 at the Pais Arena in the nation’s capital. Chris Johnson led the way with 18 points and 8 rebounds, Josh Owens dropped 15 points and Tashawn Thomas added 13 points in the win. Ian Miller scored 18 points for the visitor’s.
Jerusalem jumped out to a 23-11 lead as Johnson and Yogev Ohayon led the way but Gilboa/Galil cut the advantage to 29-20 by the end of the first quarter thanks to buckets by Miller and Greg Whittington. The Reds continued their early dominance in the second quarter with Owens being instrumental in the host’s 50-41 lead at halftime while Ezequiel Skverer tried to keep his team in the game with a dozen points over the first twenty minutes.
Oded Katash’s squad stayed ahead of Ariel Beit Halachmi’s side 68-61 after thirty minutes of action thanks to J’Covan Brown’s fine third quarter display. James Kelly rattled off 13 points for Gilboa/Galil in the final frame but Thomas and Johnson continued to find the basket as Jerusalem recorded a 94-81 victory.
1) Chris Johnson has been on fire since returning from injury. The Dayton product who has played close to 150 NBA games has been better than advertised as his constant hustle and intangibles on the court have been even more prominent than the numbers he has been putting up. His teammates and coach had plenty of accolades for the forward, “We came out and played well today and Chris helped us out on offense today,” Josh Owens said. James Feldeine also talked about what Johnson brings to the table, “Chris brings a lot of energy and he does a bit of everything. He’s aggressive and crashes the boards. He spreads the floor and gets to the corner and forces the defense to play. He brings a lot for us and we’re happy he’s back and healthy.” Finally Coach Katash spoke about how the other players on the team should look as Johnson as an example of a player hwo gives it all game in and game out, “Chris isn’t a player that has ups and downs with his energy. He is always giving 100% every game and that’s what he brings and I hope that will rub off on the other players.”
2) Coach Katash was critical of the bench effort and said that it took too long for the substitutes to get into the game while also questioning their effort. “I didn’t like how the bench players performed today. It took them a few minutes to get into the game. They made a lot of mistakes and weren’t focused and ready on the bench. We have to take care of this quickly and the players have to take responsibility.” Lior Eliyahu who made his return to action ended the game of with no points and seemed a bit lost while J’Covan Brown had a tough shooting night going 4/11 from the field. James Feldeine as well wasn’t his usual self and I asked him about what the coach had to say, “I’m one of those guys and I try to help my team in any way. If coach feels that way it’s his team and he has the right to say that. We have to do a better job and we have to figure out to keep up the energy that the first five gave us today. We’ll figure it out.” Katash was also concerned about the consistency that the team has been showing as well and the decisions that were made on the court, “I wasn’t happy for a good portion of minutes as we weren’t smart enough, not being able to execute the way we wanted to. It’s another game that we weren’t able to be consistent.”
3) Bottom line is that Jerusalem picked up another win and they can bank another W. They will need to be super focused on the task at hand especially when they play in Europe if they have designs on finishing first and in the State Cup. Feldeine discussed the victory, “It’s always good to win and it’s one of the teams that beat us this season so we thought they’d come out aggressive especially since they had lost a number of games and we beat them in the Cup.”
Although Jerusalem won the game, they had trouble putting away Gilboa/Galil who were not only without Brayant Crawford but also lost Greg Whittington to what seems to be a knee injury. Beit Halachmi’s squad began the season well but have now lost 7 in a row with a date on the horizon next Saturday against Maccabi Tel Aviv. I asked the coach if there were plans to bring in another player and he answered that they are looking into that option. I believe that they will have no choice but to bring in another player especially with potentially two players out for the long term. Joaquin Szuchman who was on Jerusalem’s radar for some time was totally out of sync against Katash’s side as was Tal Karpelsz who was coming back from injury. James Kelly may have ended the night with a double-double but he was non-existent over the first three quarters with 13 of his 15 points coming in the last frame. Katash, who knows the people up in Gilboa/Galil spoke about their recent problems, “They have some issues with injuries and I hope Whittington isn’t hurt that badly. I really support them and I hope that they’ll be ok.”