Hapoel Jerusalem downed Maccabi Rishon Le’Zion 91-80 at the Pais Arena in Jerusalem to inch closer to finishing the regular season in second place. Jerusalem held the upper hand for the majority of the game, but Rishon grabbed the lead midway through the third quarter. However, Katash’s squad ended the frame strong and cruised to the win. Tashawn Thomas starred for Jerusalem with 20 points, James Feldeine recorded a double-double with 13 points and 10 assists despite going 3/13 from the field while Amare Stoudemire also scored 13 points in the win. Darryl Monroe led Rishon with 17 points and Alex Hamilton dropped 16 points in the loss.
Tamir Blatt drained a pair of triples from the outside and Stoudemire and Thomas did damage from the inside to give Jerusalem an early lead. Darryl Monroe and Cameron Long tried to keep Rishon in the game but the hosts took a 30-22 advantage into the second frame. Monroe and Blayzer helped Rishon pull to within 2-points midway through the quarter but solid play by Owens and Thomas kept the Reds in front 51-46 at halftime.
Rishon came out flying in the second half as Hamilton sliced and diced his way to the hoop, Monroe did as he pleased and Segev dominated the paint to give Guy Goodes’s squad a 60-58 lead. But triples by Da’Sean Butler and Bar Timor followed up buckets from Feldeine and Thomas gave Jerusalem a 74-68 lead after thirty minutes. Oded Katash’s squad saw Stoudemire, Feldeine and Thomas extend the Reds advantage midway through the final frame as Butler and Blatt wrapped up a 91-80 Jerusalem victory.
1) Jerusalem were able to get by Rishon Le’Zion after playing a strong final 13 minutes of defense finally halting Goodes’s teams attack. However, the first half saw little if no defense from Katash’s squad as the Reds left that in Herzliya this past Monday night. When Rishon took the lead in the 3rd quarter a light turned on for the Reds and they went into shut down the opponent mode to take the win. Katash spoke about the positives and the game’s turning point, “We can take the last 13 minutes which we played very well. This was a game with two totally different halves where we didn’t play any defense in the first half and we tried to out shoot them. Some days it will work and others not, but this isn’t the way to play.”
2) Josh Owens is well aware that defense is the way to win games, “The last couple of weeks we’ve been trying to get back to our defensive principles from the beginning of the season where we were starting games aggressively defensively. We did a little better in the second half but we still have a lot of work to do.” James Feldeine also chimed in about the team D, “That time-out coach took he got after us. We kind of started off slow but we played a full quarter the last quarter when it counted and played really good defense and that won us the name today.” And finally Tashawn Thomas said his piece on the defense and the keys to the win, “Them taking the lead everyone from the coaching staff to the players knowing that we can’t play like that at home. Them taking the lead lit a fire for us and got us to play defense.”
3) Monday’s game against Herzliya was a tough all out battle on the floor with both sides during it out for the win. The score wasn’t as high as Jerusalem had been used to over the past few games when they hit the century mark bit they were focused on playing very though defense. Against Rishon, Jerusalem went to the races over the first 20 minutes and then the visitor’s caught up to them but woke up in time to take the win over the last last frame. Which game did they play better in? Thomas had this to say, “Defensively we played better in Herzliya and offensively against Rishon and we have to put it all into one game. We have to do it together for all 40 minutes as we head into the end of the season and the playoffs.” Feldeine also compared and contrasted the two games, “Against Herzliya we played defense for a longer period of time and today we had that one quarter of great defense. We have to figure something out because we are there but sometimes we get lackadaisical and we take our opponent a little lightly because we can score 90 or 100 points but we have to focus on defense because our offense will be there.”
Is Jerusalem concerned that they won’t be able to put it all together when the playoffs begin next Thursday? It didn’t seem so according to Owens, “I’m not concerned and we have a mature group of experienced guys. We have one week to keep working and I think we’ll be ready.” Feldeine also didn’t feel there was any reason to worry, “I’m not concerned and I think we are going to step it up. We’re a team with a switch for big and crucial games we tend to play a little differently. Hopefully that switch comes on in a week from now as game one is next Thursday so we have to flip that switch. It’s starts tomorrow and the rest of the days in practice.” Is Katash afraid that his team won’t be able to do what they need to? “It’s not an issue of fear. Our job as the professional staff is to put together a game plan and we don’t have to explain to the players the importance of the games as they are all aware of their importance. But these games coming up are important for us as we go into the playoffs and will help with our preparation.”
* Despite having a poor shooting game, James Feldeine recorded a double-double with 13 points and 10, yes 10 assists, “When I had nine I really wanted to get that 10th assist. It’s been a while since I got 10 assists. Today wasn’t my night offensively and the team trapped me and focused on me so I tried to find my teammates who were open.“
* It’s always great to have family come to visit when your a foreign player and Josh Owens was able to host his mother at tonight’s game, “It always good to have family come out and be able to share some of the experience. It’s really good to have her here.”
* Katash gave us an interesting Chris Johnson injury update as well, pay attention to the last line “Chris is coming back from a complicated injury and he’s not fit at 100% and when he plays we have to manage his time. It’s difficult to come back from an injury both from a physical standpoint and also mentally. Unfortunately I’m well aware of that.”
* Finally Ashdod coach Brad Greenberg said yesterday that Maccabi Tel Aviv and Hapoel Jerusalem were in a class of their own at the top of the league. Did he agree with that? “I have to prove it.”