There was plenty of Winner Cup Quarterfinal action so far this week with some surprises as well. Hapoel Jerusalem fell to Nahariya, Gilboa/Galil shocked Holon and Maccabi Tel Aviv had to make a big comeback to escape against Hapoel Tel Aviv in a Derby matchup.
Ironi Nahariya 87-84 Hapoel Jerusalem
Nahariya defeated Hapoel Jerusalem 87-84 to advance to the Winner Cup semifinals after coming back from an 8-point half time deficit. Nahariya Head Coach Arik Alfasi wished that this win would have come a few months earlier when the two teams tipped off in the decisive game 5 of their quarterfinal playoff series. Corey Webster scored 26 points going 10/21 from the field, Alex Young dropped 23 points and Stu Douglass finished with 7 points including 2 clutch free throws to help win the game. Curtis Jerrells scored 16 points, Jerome Dyson ended the game with 14 points and Richard Howell dropped 13 points in the defeat.
Hapoel Gilboa/Galil 82-73 Hapoel Holon
The tournament hosts were sent packing by the upstart Gilboa/Galil Team as Ariel Beit Halachmi squad shocked Dan Shamir’s Hapoel Holon. Tyler Stone recorded a double-double with 10 points and 12 rebounds, St. John’s product D’Angelo Harrison dropped 17 points while J’Cavon Brown finished the night with 15 points in the wire to wire win. Joe Alexander scored 13 points and pulled down 8 boards while Tu Holloway also dropped 8 points in the disappointing loss.
Maccabi Tel Aviv 81-80 Hapoel Tel Aviv
Maccabi Tel Aviv squeaked by Hapoel Tel Aviv 81-80 as John Dibartolomeo scored 16 points and had 6 assists in the win for Maccabi while DeShaun Thomas recorded 17 points and 7 rebounds. Tywain McKee led Hapoel with 23 points and 4 rebounds in the loss and Tomer Giant added 17 points and 5 rebounds. Maccabi was down by 12 points at the end of the first quarter but rallied back by outscoring Hapoel by 10 points in the second quarter however, Hapoel still led 45-43. The teams were neck and neck until a late second free throw by Artisom Parakhouski put the final nail in the coffin putting Maccabi in the lead for good 81-80.
Maccabi Rishon Le’Zion 77-71 Hapoel Eilat
Maccabi Rishon Le’Zion beat Hapoel Eilat 77-71 as Mark Tollefsen headed Maccabi Rishon Le’Zion scoring 18 points while adding 10 rebounds. Idan Zalmanson and Jason Siggers both had 16 points a piece as Drew Crawford and Avi Ben Shimol each dropped 10 points with the latter adding 14 assists for a double double as well. Jordan Loyd did most of the damage for Hapoel Eilat scoring 17 points while collecting 6 rebounds and Demetrius Treadwell had a double double recording 10 points and 14 rebounds.
1) It’s clear that most of the teams are still “Under Construction” with some in better shape than others. Maccabi Tel Aviv was missing both of their main ball-handlers in Norris Cole and Pierre Jackson, Eilat certainly has plenty of work to do and Nahariya has an almost brand new squad. Alex Young spoke about just that, “It’s been an interesting and fun process. The lockerroom is close and that everyone gets along. We came all came out wanting to win.” Alfasi also commented about the process, “It’s hard and our budget is lower because we aren’t playing in Europe. We weren’t able to keep our foreigners, Scotty Hopson for example signed a big contract with Galatasaray. So we had to go find new ones while also keeping a good base of Israeli players to which we added Iftach Ziv.”
2) Hapoel Jerusalem is apparently most definitely under construction as the defending Winner Cup Champs were knocked out by Nahariya after leading by double digits. The Reds looked good throughout the first half as Austin Daye hit his 3’s, Howell kept busy in the paint and Curtis Jerrells did what Curtis Jerrells does. However, the second half was a much, much different story. Head Coach Fotios Katsikaris spoke about how the team had only been together for a couple of weeks and needs time to jell as a unit. But he also called out his team criticizing the energy, intensity and defensive commitment, especially late in the game. Following the loss, it took the Jerusalem a long time to appear from the lockerroom. It’s early, very early, but the Reds have already given up one title and owner Ori Allon who was in attendance didn’t look to happy about being 0/1 in the title department for 2017/18. Will this be a sign of things to come?
3) With all that being said above, Jerusalem opens up the season on Sunday night with a visit to you guessed it, Nahariya. With a convincing win up north, the Winner Cup will be long forgotten with the new campaign opening up on the right foot. However, a second loss in a row to the same Nahariya will put the pressure squarely on the shoulders of Coach Katsikaris and the bullseye on Jerusalem will be even bigger the following week when they head to Lithuania for the EuroCup opener against Panevėžys and host their first league game on Saturday night against a tricky Rishon Le’Zion. Katsikaris spoke about now having some time to spend on the court for practice and to clear things up. I certainly hope that he does as Jerusalem has a ton of talent.
I’ve got to hand it to Ariel Beit Halachmi, the coach of of Hapoel Gilboa/Galil for again putting together a fun and run and gun offensive team that plays upbeat and entertaining basketball. He spoke about how his scouts have been able to bring in quality players and that they look for young and hungry players that can take the next step. He spoke about how Eric Griffin ended up with an NBA contract with the Utah Jazz and how other players have stepped up to the next level in their careers, be it in other countries and with better financial contracts. On top of that his players outplayed, out-hustled and led wire to wire against a Hapoel Holon team that will be playing in the FIBA Champions League.
The Yellow & Blue just escaped against Hapoel Tel Aviv in their quarterfinal matchup. Maccabi coach Neven Spahija spoke about patience and the fans will certainly need some of that after seeing Hapoel give them a run for their money. It should be noted though that Pierre Jackson and Norris both didn’t play due to injuries and without a floor general it’s certainly not easy for any team to play proper basketball. With Holon and Jerusalem both knocked out, Maccabi is the clear favorite. They take on Rishon in the early semifinal and Shmulik Brenner their coach will definitely have something in store for Maccabi. Tune in to find out.