Hapoel Jerusalem opened up their home slate with an easy 85-55 win over Ironi Nahariya. After a close first quarter, the Reds began to pull away right before halftime thanks to J’Covan Brown coming on to jumpstart the offense. The same Brown continued his hot hand in the third quarter to help Oded Katash’s squad run away with the thirty point victory.
Brown led the way for Jerusalem with 11 points, 9 assists and a plus/minus of 46. Suleiman Braimoh added 12 points, Bar Timor and Idan Zalmanson each chipped in with 11 points while Nimrod Levi scored 10 points and pulled down 13 rebounds in the victory. Jeff Adrien was Nahariya’s leading scorer with 17 points.
Jerusalem jumped out to a 20-14 lead after ten minutes of action as Trent Lockett drilled home a pair of triples for the hosts while Jeff Adrien was busy inside the paint for Nahariya early on.
The Reds increased their lead to 26-14 less than two minutes into the second quarter but the northern side chipped away with buckets by Tony Gaffney and Travis Warech. After not scoring for close to 7 minutes, Oded Katash inserted J’Covan Brown to ignite the offense which he promptly did by dishing out assists to Tashawn Thomas, Bar Timor and Suleiman Braimoh as Jerusalem took a 36-24 advantage into halftime.
Brown began the second half where he left off the first as he scored a quick 4 points and added an assist as Jerusalem went ahead 47-30 just three minutes into the third quarter. Tamir Blatt and Braimoh continued the attack and helped the hosts to a 60-39 lead after 30 minutes.
Katash’s crew kept hitting their shots in the fourth quarter while Nahariya had no answer for James Feldeine, Nimrod Levi and Daniel Rosenbaum in the final frame as Jerusalem ran away with the 85-55 blow out win.
1) It took some time but Jerusalem began to pull away when J’Covan Brown came on with a little over two minutes left in the first half and immediately paid dividends by delivering three assists in a row in a minute to give the Reds breathing room. Brown then began the second half on fire with four points and three more assists and that was that. Bye bye, so long and farewell to Nahariya. If Jerusalem wants to reach the top, Brown is going to have to be at the top of his game and it seems that’s exactly where he is. “Brown came into the season in much better shape and he is playing on the highest level, explained Oded Katash following the game. “It’s his second year here at Jerusalem and feels like he is also one of year leaders of the team.” Suleiman Braimoh also gave kudos to the guard, “That’s my guy. It’s always great with JB is playing tip top. He’s one of our key guys and when he gets going it helps us a lot.” Brown himself also spoke about the victory, “This was a great win. We started off a bit slow but we picked it up as a team and we came out and played great. We just got to be consistent and keep playing for each other, everything else will take care of itself.” He also talked about where he is on a physical and mental side, “I’m just being comfortable and I’m comfortable in the system. My mind and my body are in the right place right now and I want to keep it that way.”
2) Braimoh celebrated his 30th Birthday with a win and he was all smiles after the victory. The big man has been better than advertised after playing solidly for Eilat last season, so solidly it’s a surprise that he’s been on a slew of teams all around the world, 13 different ones in total. Braimoh brings it every single day, game in and game out and it’s a pleasure to watch him in action. The Nigerian native couldn’t have been happier to pick up a W on his special day, “That’s all I can ask for. My best birthday present is a win so I’m happy we got that.” He also commented on what the team can take from a game that saw the Reds win by thirty points, “We learn from wins and we learn from losses. There are a lot of things that we did right and did wiring, so we will go back and watch the film and try to do things that we do well do more of that and try to eliminate the mistakes we made.” Katash also discussed what his squad needs to do and what they can take away from the contest that was, “I’m very happy with the defensive side of the game but we weren’t fluid at times on offense. We have to come out from the first moment and play hard because we can’t always rely on a good second half to win the game.” Finally, James Feldeine chimed in with his thoughts, “It’s always good to win at home, first one here in a long time. We came out strong in the first quarter and wanted to be aggressive.”
3) “With AEK and Maccabi Tel Aviv coming up we are expecting a very challenging week,” Katash began when asked about the upcoming clashes in Europe and in the League. The Athens based side defeated Jerusalem at home last year in a game that cost the Reds an easier playoff path when the likes of Dusan Sakota and Malcolm Griffin manhandled Katash’s squad in the Capital City. That game is going to followed up by a trip to Yad Eliyahu and a date with Maccabi Tel Aviv who will be looking for revenge from the Winner Cup Final, so there’s no question the team knows exactly how important these games are. Feldeine also looked ahead to the pair of contests, “AEK came in here last year and beat us. So we have to be ready, get rest and this is one of the big games in the group. We want to be in first place.” Brown spoke about the games to come as well, “Every game is going to be a test for us no matter who we play, whether it’s a second division team or third division team, everyone wants to beat us. If we come and just play our game what else can we ask for.” What will be the key, J’Covan Brown? “Just be us, just be Jerusalem basketball. Play together as a team and not as individuals, fight for the guy that’s next to you and if you do that for forty minutes the basketball is going to take care of itself.”
Very quietly the Israeli players on Jerusalem are putting in some terrific performances. Tamir Blatt, Nimrod Levi, Bar Timor and Idan Zalmanson have been solid game in and game out so far for the Reds and Katash will need them to be if the team has any designs to win both the domestic league and Champions League. The quartet put up 37 points, 24 rebounds and 10 assists which are fine, fine numbers. Add into the mix Daniel Rosenbaum who scored a triple and who just made Aliyah from California and the Blue & White contingent is not bad at all. If they can continue their fine play going forward, then together with Feldeine, Brown, Braimoh, Thomas and Lockett Jerusalem will be quite a threat to contend for all of the available titles and that’s good news for the fans. However, there is a big week ahead, so let’s see how the team makes it’s way through the next two games which will be a quality test for Jerusalem which should give us all a bit more of an indication of what this team is made of.