Hapoel Jerusalem disposed of Maccabi Rishon Le’Zion 84-78. After a close first half, the Reds used a strong third quarter to pull ahead as Oded Katash’s squad featured five players in double digits in the victory. Idan Zalmanson led the way with 14 points and 8 rebounds, John Holland added 14 points, James Feldeine chipped in with 13 points and Suleiman Braimoh added 12 points in the win. D’Angelo Harrison scored 17 points, Alex Hamilton chipped in with 12 points and Zach Hankins dropped 11 points and 8 rebounds in the defeat.
Jerusalem took a slim 12-10 lead as James Feldeine and Suleiman Braimoh paced the Reds while Zach Hankins did the same for Rishon after five minutes of action. Big man Idan Zalmanson scored a trio of buckets, Nimrod Levi hit a triple and a layup while D’Angelo Harrison and Alex Hamilton added points of his own to keep the wine city squad in the game but down 25-22 after ten minutes of action.
John Holland found his stroke for the Reds as Hamilton continued to score including a tear drop in the paint but Zalmanson kept Oded Katash’s squad in front 35-31 midway through the second quarter. Holland hit from deep but Harrison did as well as Jerusalem closed out the half in front 40-38.
Zalmanson and Feldeine scored to bump the lead up to 45-38 forcing Rishon coach Guy Goodes to call time less than two minutes into the third quarter. Noam Dovrat drained a triple from the right side, Oz Blayzer scored one from the left but Bar Timor and Deividis Sirvydas drilled a 3-pointer to keep Jerusalem in the lead 57-49 with three minutes left in the frame. Braimoh and Levi added buckets but Harrison hit a half court Hail Mary for Rishon, however, the host’s stayed in front 63-52 after thirty minutes of action.
Feldeine and Levi found the bottom of the basket for Jerusalem while Darryl Monroe did the same for Rishon but Zalmanson kept scoring as the Reds held a 70-56 advantage with six minutes left in regulation. Nimrod Tishman, Monroe and Hankins tried to dent the Jerusalem lead but Holland, Feldeine and Timor all hit triples to wrap up the win.
1) The post COVID-19 basketball break version of Hapoel Jerusalem will definitely be different than the pre COVID-19 team. With Tashawn Thomas and J’Covan Brown, who were in their second season with the Reds, Oded Katash’s squad was a well oiled machine and one that could contend and win the league title. Without the pair, Jerusalem is still good, in fact, very, very good but Katash will have to work, and work quickly to bring his new players up to speed. But it’s not just bringing his new players in Jeremy Pargo, Deividas Sirvydis and Emanuel Terry, it’s getting the rest of the team to play a different style of game which the coach readily after the game and varying roles than they had earlier in the season, “John Holland can play a number of positions and we will have to learn how to play differently. The minute Tashawn and JB left we had to make changes to how we play.” Braimoh also referenced the challenge of trying to fit the new pieces into a puzzle that may be changing on the fly, “The learning curve is steep for the new guys being that you know we had a good thing rolling and now we have to roll up 6-7 months of chemistry and high level basketball and get them up to speed in 2-3 weeks. It’s not going to look like it used to look like. But with dedication, hard work and just effort and want to we can be the best version of what our current self can be.”
2) Braimoh also discussed how can’t be expected to be Tashawn Thomas and the same is true with Jeremy Pargo who can’t be expected to be J’Covan Brown, that’s not how basketball works. Each player has his own strengths and weaknesses. Braimoh was asked if he had to change the way he played to step into Thomas’s shoes, “I don’t think I need to change anything. With Tashawn and JB gone it’s just a matter of stepping up. I just have to take what I do well and take it up to the highest level as possible. I try not to get ahead of myself and think that just because Tashawn did this I have to do it. That’s Tashawn’s game and he brought a certain element to the team. I’m not Tashawn but what I can do is be the best version of myself and I try to encourage the guys to do the same thing. Stay in your role and try to do the best in your role and be the best you can be and let the results take care of themselves.”
3) The addition of Pargo is significant, in fact very significant. The 3 time Maccabi Tel Aviv guard reunited with Katash, the coach that helped him win his first championship in Israel and the pair would definitely like to recreate what they had together up in the Galilee ten years ago. Pargo will bring veteran savvy to the Reds and of course top level point guard play that Hapoel could use after losing J’Covan Brown and Shelvin Mack. John Holland knows what Pargo brings to the table, “We’re still working on coming together. We still have Jeremy that needs to work his way into the mix so it’s a process. He’s going to be a tremendous addition so we have to keep working everyday to learn each other and get better.” Katash is also aware as to how critical an addition Pargo will be to his team and how he will be able to help the team as they vie for a championship, “Once Jeremy Pargo joins us we will have a point guard on the court that will help us and the way we play.” But Katash won’t rush Pargo into action as the guard just ended his 14 day quarantine and needs to get back into playing shape while also learning what he will need to do on the floor, “I’m not sure when Pargo can play significant minutes and it won’t be the next two games. Pargo won’t play the next game and against Maccabi we will have to see.”
Picking up a win after having not played an official game since March is significant and a positive step for the send place team as Holland said, “It was a good challenge for the first game back and I think we stepped up to the challenge. We still have work to do if we want to reach the level we need to win a championship.” Braimoh was also content to get back to work, “It was fun to get back out there with the guys. It wasn’t our best basketball but a win is a win and we will take it. We have to keep getting better and move onto the next one.” Katash looked at the win and the fact that Jerusalem is playing Rishon again on Wednesday night as a plus for his team as he continues to rebuild, “We played at 50% of our ability. The next 2-3 weeks will be preparing for the latter stages and we have a lot to learn. The fact that we are playing the same team twice in a week is helpful as we can make certain corrections and I want to see improvements already when we play Rishon again on Wednesday.”