Hapoel Jerusalem defeated Bnei Herzliya 84-82 in a game of ups an downs for both teams. Richard Howell starred for the hosts scoring 19 points in only 13 minutes while Curtis Jerrells dropped 18 points, 15 of which came in the second half as Bar Timor with 15 points and Lior Eliyahu’s 12 rounded out Jerusalem’s 3rd win in a row. Jeff Adrien ended the night with a double-double, 21 points and 12 rebounds as Tauren Green scored 16 points in the 2-point loss.
1) The game changed in one first half moment when Karam Mashour, the league’s best Israeli player this season left the contest with a shoulder injury. In 16 minutes of play, the Israeli-Arab was just one point shy of a double-double as he was already sporting 9 points and 10 rebounds! Crazy numbers from a crazy player. However, once he was done for the night, Herzliya came out flat as a pancake in the second half allowing Jerusalem to go on a 13-2 run to take the 3rd quarter lead. It’s feared that Mashour will be out for the balance of the season and that will be a massive hit to Mickey Gorka’s team. A huge loss in the title hunt as he will now have to rely on Jeff Adrien, Halil Kanacevic (who he himself said could’ve done more with only 6 points) Tauren Green and company. This injury not only changed the complexion of the game but perhaps the Bnei Herzliya season as well.
2) Two former Hapoel Tel Aviv players faced each other, Richard Howell for Jerusalem and Darrell Williams with Herzliya and it as clear that Howell had the upper hand. After a 2/9 performance last week, Howell came back with a vengeance going 7/8 from the field and 5/6 from the free throw line good for 19 points while Williams scored 3 points in 12 minutes. Last week we saw Howell make life a bit too complicated for himself missing numerous times from underneath the basket, however this week he was almost perfect fitting nicely into Head Coach Simone Pianigiani’s offense, “He gave us some very important energy when he came in during the first half.” I couldn’t have agreed more. Without Howell’s first half contribution, Jerusalem could have been down by 20 points at the half instead of 10. It just shows you that every single point at any moment of the game is critical.
3) Curtis Jerrells had a very quiet first half but came on strong leading the way in the final frame with 10 points to ultimately lead Jerusalem to the win. Jerrells, as we’ve seen game in and game out all season long has been the the heart and soul of this team. Big game winning shots in Nahariya and just last week in Holon, smart leadership on the floor and an all around good guy has made him a fan favorite and a player that is worth the price of admission to watch. He was asked if this was his team, but he said very quickly that the key word is that they are a team and on any given night one of the guys can step up and put in a game winning performance. He’s a team player and while he can pick up the slack for others, he also recognizes that without the whole team playing together there will be no way that they will have a chance to win the title.
How quickly do things change in the standings? Just three games ago, Pianigiani’s side was one loss away from dropping into 10th place, but with 3 wins in a row, Jerusalem has now moved into 4th place. That’s quite a swing and truly amazing as to how close this league is. Next week Jerusalem heads down to Eilat to face the first place team and they will be looking from revenge afternoon losing in the resort city 62-55 back in February. This will no doubt be a statement game for Jerusalem on a number of levels as they all want to show who really is the best team in the league. As we head into the stretch run of the 2016/17 campaign, more drama and excitement is just knocking on heaven’s door.