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Reds & Greens: Jerusalem & Haifa advance to the title game!

Dov Halickman Photography

Semifinals Game 1
Hapoel Jerusalem advanced to the Israel Basketball League Finals with a 93-76 victory over Rishon Le’Zion exacting revenge on the previous season’s final when the Wine City side bested the Reds to take the Championship. Jerome Dyson had a monster game with 23 points while Richard Howell and Tarence Kinsey each dropped 18 points. Curtis Jerrells scored 15 points and added 8 assists as Lior Eliyahu pulled down 12 rebounds and Captain Yotam Halperin dished out 7 helpers.

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Richard Howell featured for Hapoel Jerusalem in the first half with 14 points, Curtis Jerrells dropped 7 points while Lior Eliyahu grabbed 8 rebounds for the Reds. Rishon Le’Zion’s Cameron Long was good for 13 points as Elishay Kadir scored 6 points in a close first half of back and forth Basketball as Jerusalem held a 3-point lead at halftime.

Jerome Dyson came out flying in the second half scoring 13 points in the 3rd frame while Tarence Kinsey played lockdown defense helping Jerusalem to a 26-14 quarter and a 68-53 advantage after 30 minutes. With a 15 point lead, the Reds put the game away in the final quarter outscoring Rishon 25-23 to advance to the Israel Basketball Finals with a 93-76 win.

Semifinals Game 2
Maccabi Haifa disposed of Maccabi Tel Aviv 85-74 in a game that isn’t indicative of the final result. Kevin Pinkney starred with 20 points while Jon DiBartolomeo added 19 points in the and Andrew Goudelock paced Maccabi Tel Aviv with 24 points.

Maccabi Haifa got out to a hot start as four players each scored five points to run out to a 22-14 first quarter lead. Gregory Vargas with 9 points, Amit Simhon with 8 points and Kevin Pinckney with 7 points helped the Greens take a 9 point, 39-30 lead into halftime. DJ Seely featured for the Yellow & Blue with 8 points as Gal Mekel dropped 6 points after 20 minutes.

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If Maccabi was looking for a better second half it was no where to be found as Haifa dominated every facet of the last two quarters as John DiBartolomeo and Kevin Pinkney sent the Yellow & Blue home for the third straight season without making a Finals appearance.

3-Pointers
1) Jerusalem played arguably their best second half of the Israeli season closing out an overmatched Maccabi Rishon Le’Zion team. Jerome Dyson’s massive third quarter combined with Tarence Kinsey’s stellar defense helped propel the Reds into the Finals. Rishon couldn’t find an answer to stop the Big Red Machine from playing the ball that we’ve all wanted and expected to see from them. Richard Howell’s big first half set the stage for the onslaught that was to come by the guards which was finished off by Curtis Jerrells in the final frame. When Jerusalem plays the way they did in the 2nd half they are unstoppable. The question is can they perform the way they did in the Semifinals on Thursday night against upstart Maccabi Haifa.

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2) An speaking of the Greens, they absolutely demolished Maccabi Tel Aviv in their own backyard. By playing relentless defense, fluid offense and with selfless teamwork, Haifa has moved into the finals. John DiBartolomeo was unstoppable in the second half while Kevin Pinkney chewed up the Yellow & Blue players in the paint like there was no tomorrow. Ofer Rahimi did a fabulous job preparing his squad for the game and was humble before his teacher Arik Shivek when the latter came in during the press conference. There is something very, very good about them Haifa team and their enthusiasm is contagious.

3) Maccabi Tel Aviv needs a makeover and fast. What we saw in the Quarterfinals against Bnei Herzliya was a mirage. The real Maccabi that we’ve seen and covered all season long was back in action in the Semifinals not even offering a glimpse of hope. For Maccabi fans it was sad to see the game play out the way that it did and as Andrew Goudelock said that the players in the lockerroom after the game were sad as well. The Yellow & Blue management needs to make a decision on who will coach the team quickly in order to begin building for next season which is right around the corner. There is plenty of work to do and plenty more soul searching.

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Stats & Facts
Maccabi Haifa out-rebounded Maccabi Tel Aviv 43-30 with the Greens grabbing 16(!) of the offensive variety. This has been one of Maccabi biggest problems all year and it once again came to the forefront in the defeat. Rishon’s Charles Thomas went an abysmal 3/13 from the field while Shawn Dawson went 2/6 good for only 5 points. Although Thomas had 14 points it’s clear that of his shooting would have been better so would have Rishon’s result and if Dawson has designs on the NBA he still has plenty of work that needs to be done here.

Overtime
What can I say about John DiBartolomeo that I haven’t yet said or has been said by anyone else. He has been spectacular game in and game out these playoffs and is now in the radar screen of every other team in this country. After the game, the modest Jewish-Italian Stallion had this to say about his Semifinal performance: “It was an enormous win and we’re enjoying it now but we have to focus when we get back together tomorrow as we have a bigger game on Thursday.”

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The keys to victory:
“We took care of the ball well on offense. Maccabi Tel Aviv is a great team in transition and can get a lot of fast break three’s and dunks. When we took care of the ball I think we limited their offense and that was key to our victory.”

About Willy Workman:
“He does the little things and he does the hard work. It may not be the most glamorous job but he loves it. He dies everything possible for us to win and make a difference. I love playing alongside of him and he always has my back. He’s a very bug key to our success in these playoffs.