Hapoel Eilat travelled up to Jerusalem and took home a dominant 99-83 victory over the Reds. The Red Sea side moves the ball well throughout the contest and dished out 29 assists as they were always one step ahead of Jerusalem in the win. JP Tokoto led the visitor’s with 22 points, Elijah Bryant added 20 points and 7 rebounds while Lenzelle Smith Jr. flirted with a triple double as he scored 16 points, dished out 9 assists and pulled down 9 rebounds. Da’Sean Butler scored 19 points as J’Covan Brown and Tashawn Thomas each added 14 points in the defeat.
Jerusalem took a 21-20 lead after ten minutes of action but Eilat went on a 12-0 run to end the half to take a 47-37 advantage into the break thanks to quality play by Idan Zalmanson, JP Tokoto and veteran guard Avi Ben Shimol. There was little defense to be found by either squad in the third quarter as Tokoto and Smith Jr. scored at while Bryant drained 13 points of his own in the final frame to take home the 16-point victory.
1) Jerusalem’s defense was nowhere to be found against Eilat as the visitor’s ran wild all over the Reds dishing out 29 assists and absolutely controlling the pace of play throughout the 40 minutes. Josh Owens spoke exclusively to The Sports Rabbi following the contest and touched on this exact point: “I think we have to look at the scoreboard and see that they put up 100 points. Any time we lose a game the other team usually puts up a lot of points and it starts with defense. All of our shots may not fall every game, but we need to bring defense to every game.” Owens continued on, “We have a quick turnaround with a game on Tuesday and we have to prepare for Dijon. It will be important to get back to our defensive principles. Whether it’s the Israeli league or Champions League, we want to put this game behind us and focus on the next one and do what we do best.”
1) I’m sure that Jerusalem Head Coach Oded Katash was counting on some of the players that didn’t see any action against Bamberg to put in a quality effort against Eilat as Lior Eliyahu, Bar Timor and Alex Chubrevich didn’t play in Germany while Yogev Ohayon played only a few minutes. However, Eliyahu played 11 minutes and scored 2 points, Ohayon clocked in 14 minutes scored no points and didn’t pick in an assist, Chubrevich scored 4 points in 13 minutes while Timor dropped 8 points in 23 minutes. That’s just not good enough. The Sports Rabbi asked Katash about the lack of production, “I’m not disappointed in the players on an individual level but as a team. Our biggest advantage this season is how we’ve been able to play as a team and our character. We didn’t have that today. It doesn’t matter what the reasons are now, but the players are professionals and they have to come and put on a good performance for the fans, and they deserve it. The Jerusalem fans are the best and even though we didn’t play well they were still behind us. The players have to take this loss to heart.”
3) Eilat played a brilliant game from beginning to end and it’s clear that by winning their 4th game in a row after three losses, Sharon Drucker’s squad is on the right track. Instead of focusing on Jerusalem, they made sure to have their own house in order as the coach explained, “We didn’t look at Jerusalem when we prepared but at ourselves and how we wanted to play the game.” Lenzelle Smith Jr. also spoke about buying into the boss, “We’re finding ourselves. We didn’t have an identity as a team. Now as a team we’re trusting each other and we’re listening to Coach Sharon Drucker.” Elijah Bryant also discussed the job Drucker is doing, “It’s a hard job when you have guys that don’t know each other coming together and buy into something they’ve never done. There’s a lot of different personalities. You’re managing people that want to score, people who’ve done a lot of stuff at other places. To be able to gather a group of people to fight for one job is testament to him.”
Elijah Bryant has been fantastic so far this season for Eilat and again showed his quality against Jerusalem drilling 13 points in the 4th quarter to salt away the game. The Sports Rabbi spoke to him following the contest as to what the keys to the the squad’s success so far this season is, “It was a great team win and if you look at the stat sheet you see we had 29 assists. Tons of people put in work and it’s a testament to Sharon having us come together and play as a team. The biggest thing is team. We try to find the best shot no matter what it is. It’s team, team, team and that’s the advantage we have over other teams and we will continue to focus on that.”