Ironi Nahariya shocked Hapoel Jerusalem in the capital city 86-85 thanks to a last second 3-point shot by Scotty Hopson to take a 1-0 best of five Quarterfinals series lead. Hopson who finished the night with 13 points came up huge for the visitors draining the winner as he joined Derwin Kitchen (19 points), Jonathan Skjoldebrand’s (13) and Stu Douglass (12) to help erase an early 22 point deficit. With the victory, the northern team grabbed home court advantage as Hapoel Jerusalem’s Tarence Kinsey (23) & Curtis Jerrells (21) will have to now win at least one game in Nahariya to get into the Final Four.
Hapoel Jerusalem ran out to a 32-10 lead after the first quarter thanks to an offensive onslaught and stifling defense as an inspired Lior Eliyahu scored 11 points while Travis Peterson and Tarence Kinsey added 7 points a piece to close out a dominating frame. The first five minutes of the second quarter was more of the same with Jerusalem holding a 46-26 lead, but Nahariya stormed back to close out the half with a 15-3 run thanks to 9 points from ex-Hapoel man Derwin Kitchen to pull to within 8, 49-41 after twenty minutes of action.
Coming out of halftime and with Jerusalem reeling, Nahariya drew even at the end of the third quarter, 61-61 thanks to Jonathan Skjoldebrand’s 9 3rd quarter points setting up the dramatic final 10 minutes. With Jerusalem holding a 1-point lead, 84-83 thanks to a big quarter from Curtis Jerrells who dropped 11 points, Kinsey was sent to the line with 7 seconds remaining in the game. But the midrange sharp shooter hit the first and missed his second free throw setting up Scotty Hopson’s buzzer beating 3-pointer with no time left on the clock to steal not only game one 86-85 in the best of five quarterfinal series but also home court advantage.
1) What a great game! Going from a 22-point deficit after the first quarter all the way to winning the game on a last second 3-point shot by Scotty Hopson, we had 40 minutes of intense basketball that was played at the highest levels. Nahariya put on a show finding a way to chip away at the Hapoel lead to eventually take it themselves. But what was truly fascinating was the fact that Arik Alfasi’s players were able to stay together as one unit and fight their way back from Mission Impossible.
2) Speaking to the Nahariya players after the game, one could see the elation and joy on their faces after taking the last second win against Jerusalem, but they also know that they have a way to go to find themselves in the Final Four. Beating the Reds once on the road was a necessity to win the series and they did just that. Now we will have to see if they can keep the home court advantage and take their two homes games. One player who certainly had an axe to grind was Derwin Kitchen who had his contract with Hapoel terminated a couple of years ago. He not only put on a great show but played with cramps throughout the 4th quarter wanting to be on the floor for the decisive final plays. I tried to get a couple of quotes from him following the game but he refused to be interviewed. Perhaps the silence was deafening. His coach however did heap praise on the guard stating that he was dominant, played important minutes on both sides of the court and gave a lot of heart.
3) Jerusalem Head Coach Simone Pianigiani knows his team should’ve, could’ve and would’ve won the game had they been more focused and had maintained the big lead they had jumped out to early on. It’s never easy to play disciplined basketball when you have such a big advantage but that is what separates the men from the boys. The Italian boss saw what should’ve been a lopsided win become a dramatic loss and one that he knows will take a mental toll on his players. If he can’t get them straightened out for the game on Sunday, this loss may have helped seal their fate.
Stats & Facts
1) Hapoel Jerusalem went 15/29 from the charity stripe. That’s definitely not taking advantage of “free” throws and has been an issue with the Reds all season long. Coach Pianigiani has referenced this time and time again and by missing 14 FTs you just aren’t going to win the game. They almost did, but close as the saying goes is only good in horseshoes and hand grenades.
2) Nahariya committed only 2 fouls over the course of the first quarter and that was clearly an issue for their horrendous start. They didn’t play aggressive and didn’t bang the bodies around early on but once they did they became much more competitive eventually helping them to the win.
Scotty Hopson spoke exclusively to the Sports Rabbi following the game about his winner shot:
“Winner shot?Yea, it’s the money time man, it doesn’t matter how we win but that we do. We got the first one on the road and now we go back home and try to win.”
When you were down by 22 points, what was going through your mind?
“Keeping the team together, we have been in situations like that before where we came out sluggish and that’s on me and the starters here. We have to do a better job of coming out and performing. We rallied back and fought and showed some real character for this victory.”
Putting a finger on one point that helped propel the team to victory:
“Coach has always talked about that we have success when we perform as a unit. Kitchen had a great game, Stu Douglas made some shots, Ty Nash had big rebounds, Nick gave us good minutes. Everyone did their part today.”
Note Dame product Tyrone Nash also had a few words about the game that was and how his team pulled off the win:
“I’m still trying to figure it out, the way we started was poor, definitely didn’t want to start the playoffs like that, but hell of a way to fight back. It’s kind of a demoralizing loss for a team, so we are going to try and take advantage of it.”
Looking ahead to game 2:
“First thing, we played poor and we have to start game two by playing like we know that we can. If we can do that and play well in the second half we give ourselves a good chance.”
Travis Peterson also chimed in on the devastating loss:
“We weren’t aggressive on offense like when we were moving the ball like we did in the first quarter. After that it slowed down for us and we tried to get it back but we never really did. We didn’t get enough stops.”
Did you feel the pressure at half time?
“For sure the momentum changed, I don’t think it was like panic mode as we did have an 8 point lead at the half, so you start all over. But definitely the momentum changed, we had to try and get it back on our side, there were spurts on defense but we never really maintained it. We missed a lot of free throws, that’s stuff we control ourselves and need to take advantage of that to not be in that situation down in the stretch.”