Hapoel Jerusalem’s Champions League dreams were dashed after falling to Tenerife in Spain 81-64. After a slim 75-73 victory last week against the Canary Island squad at home in the two game total points series, the Reds needed to play a complete game in order to get by one of the strongest teams in the competition. However, an early first quarter 15-0 run by the hosts put Coach Oded Katash’s team in a hole that was very difficult to dig out of.
Only two Jerusalem players featured in double digits as James Feldeine scored 20 points and Da’Sean Butler dropped 11 points as the said shot an abysmal 36% from the field. Tim Abromaitis was the leading point scorer with 21, while Nicolas Brussino added 15 points and Ferran Bassas chipped in with 14 points in the win.
The game began tight our of the box, but with the score 9-8 in favor of Jerusalem, Tenerife went on a 15-0 run as Brussino hit three triples to give the host’s a 24-10 lead after ten minutes of play. Stoudemire and Butler cut the lead to 30-24 but Brussino and Bassas hit key shots to help Tenerife to a 40-26 at halftime.
Abromaitis got to work in the 3rd quarter as did the host defense to stymie Jerusalem taking a 62-43 advantage after thirty minutes. Katash’s squad again brought down the lead to 72-63 but Tenerife was too strong on this night as Abromaitis and Lucca Staiger put the finishing touches on the win to advance to the Final Four of the competition.
1) Heading to play in Tenerife is never an easy assignment and Jerusalem found out first hand what it’s like to face them on the Canary Islands. Whatever game plan coach Oded Katash had put together for his team went out the window once the host’s went on a 15-0 run in the first quarter and pretty much out them in the drivers seat for the rest of the game. You could feel the disappointment across the board from the Reds personnel. Coach Katash, “We’re very disappointed and we wanted this a lot. In both games, they were able to stop us and get us out of rhythm on things that we had done well all season long.” James Feldeine also looked back at the game that was, “I’m very disappointed. We had a chance to go to the Final Four and host it home and we blew it. We couldn’t score and this was the lowest point totals at halftime that we had all season. They are a good team and they make 3-pointers at home. A lot of things went wrong for us.”
2) Katash spoke about how Tenerife was able to dictate play and force Jerusalem out of their game and that as clear throughout the 80 minutes. I want to go back to what Amare Stoudemire said about the difference between the two game series versus a best of 5 or 7 in the NBA, that you have time to adjust and in 2 games you don’t. Boy was he right. Tenerife and coach Txus Vidorreta adjusted right after the first half of the game in Jerusalem and rattled off a 17-0 run while shutting down the passing lanes and Tamir Blatt who was a non-factor throughout the 2 games only scoring 4 points and dishing out 3 assists while not even attempting a 3-pointer in Spain. As I had questioned Katash before the series began, Ferran Bassas did a masterful job in cutting him down while scoring 14 points himself. Katash, “We wanted to make corrections for the second game and we knew that we were playing against a good team with a lot of quality who play well together. They forced us out of our normal game plan and our strengths. We are a good passing team and we weren’t able to take advantage of that. We also suffered when some of our players couldn’t get into the game as well as the first one.“
3) Another area of concern which had been an issue all season long is matching up with bigger teams. Jerusalem always seem to have trouble with teams that have size and once again we saw that in full force as Josh Owens scored 4 points in 13 minutes while fouling out, Tashawn Thomas had 8 points, Conger and Eliyahu combined for 2 points and Amare Stoudemire who according to a Sport 5 report forgot his shoes in Israel and they had to be brought to Tenerife was scored 6 points and also fouled out in 17 minutes of action. Da’Sean Butler was the only forward to score in double dights with 11 points went a brutal 3/9 from the field Oy! “They didn’t surprise us,” explained Katash. “They took advantage of the offensive rebounds and they were able to run and score cheap points. There was momentum in the game and we tried to make some changes but we didn’t play well enough today.”
All in all Katash tried to put a positive spin on the campaign, “I’m proud of the team and I think we had a good European season. There are quality teams in this competition and although Tenerife won’t win their league title they wanted this one badly. We weren’t at our best in these games and we had some minor injuries.” However, I have to take Katash to task on these two games. He didn’t react well at home when his team suffered a 17-0 run and in the first quarter of the second game with the 15-0 run. Both occasions saw him call only 1 timeout to try and curb the run and coming out of the timeouts his players couldn’t buy a bucket. Add to that a few more 7-0 runs by Tenerife and he just couldn’t get his players to react. This was Katash’s big test after signing an extension to the end of the 2019/20 season and he came up short; Just like last season in the Israel Final Four semifinal matchup against Hapoel Holon.
I know that there is a process and that building the foundation for years to come is not simple but this was a huge loss for Jerusalem. No Final Four at home. No million Euros should they have won the competition and now it’s back to the drawing board in the Israeli league with Maccabi Tel Aviv coming into the PAIS Arena on Monday. Katash is still developing as a coach and it’s clear that there are going to be growing pains. But sometimes you need to be knocked down in order to come back stronger. We will see if that’s going to be the case. Bottom line is, there is massive disappointment amongst the Jerusalem faithful and questions as to what could have, should have and would have been if they had defeated Antwerp on the road and avoided a quarterfinal date with Tenerife. Especially when you see the other teams that made it into the Final Four, Bologna, Antwerp and Bamberg; all teams that the Reds could have defeated.
Sometime sports can be cruel. For Jerusalem that was the case, but they have only themselves to blame.