The Israel Basketball Winner Cup got underway with a pair of games on Tuesday evening with the winners earning a trip to the quarterfinals of the preseason competition. Hapoel Eilat sunk Nes Ziona 94-90 in a tight contest at Lev HaMoshava while Maccabi Haifa downed Nahariya 91-81.
Nes Ziona raced out to an early lead but Eilat closed the gap soon thereafter to head into halftime ahead 45-43. The second half stayed close all the way through but Casey Prather took control at the end of the game as he hit a clutch triple and drained his free throws to help Eilat to the win.
Ariel Beit Halachmi’s debut on the Red Sea City squad’s sidelines was a successful one as he received fabulous play from veteran Johnathan Skjoldebrand with 23 points, league newcomer Casey Prather added 19 points and 10 rebounds, Tzuf Ben Moshe who played under Nes Ziona coach Brad Greenberg last year with Ashdod impressed with 14 points, rookie center Josh Nebo chalked up a double double with 10 points and 12 rebounds and former Euroleague guard Joe Ragland was a true floor general with 10 points and 10 assists pacing Eilat.
For Greenberg’s team a trio of new Israeli league recruits as Kwan Cheatham went for 20 points and 10 rebounds, Patrick Miller was stellar with 17 points, 6 boards and 4 assists and Davion Berry chipped in with 14 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists while Or Cornelius scored a confident 11 points. Eilat will play Hapoel Jerusalem in Winner Cup quarterfinal action at the Drive In Arena on Thursday at 21:15.
Over at the Carmel, Daniel Seaone’s Greens controlled the pace of play throughout the 40 minutes to take the 10 point win thanks to the return of Donta Smith to Israel who was absolutely spectacular for Haifa.
Smith scored 19 points, pulled down 7 rebounds, dished out 5 assists and added 3 steals. Chris Dowe who also made a triumphant Israeli League return also scored 19 points, added 5 helpers and stole 3 balls while newcomer Le’Bryan Nash who starred in Japan recorded a double-double with 15 points and 11 rebounds. Roman Sorkin who decided to stay in Haifa after flirting with going to Maccabi Tel Aviv scored a strong 15 points and Aaron Valdes chipped in with 13 points in the win.
For Danny Franco’s squad Kailn Lucas also impressed in his Israeli League return slicing and dicing his way to 23 points, 5 boards and 3 assists, Jaron Blossomgame was solid with 23 points and 7 rebounds while Joe Alexander put up a double double with 15 points and 13 rebounds.Haifa will take on Maccabi Rishon Le’Zion in Thursday night’s first quarterfinal slated to tip off at 7pm.
Tonight, Hapoel Beer Sheva hosts Hapoel Haifa at 19:35 while Hapoel Gilboa Galil welcomes Bnei Herzliya at 19:40.
3-Pointers on Eilat’s win over Nes Ziona
1) Casey Prather is looking to jump start his career after a pair of injuries derailed his time in Australia. The Florida product is a start, plain and simple who will be able to do as he pleases in Israel should he stay healthy. He fits Beit Halachmi’s style perfectly and will bene to watch this season. Listen to my podcast with Gilbert Gardiner as he breaks down Prather as we discuss what we can expect to see from the swingman.
2) Josh Nebo was fantastic in his first game as a professional. He impressed at both ends of the floor and will be yet another player who will easily play a solid part of the coach’s plans for the 20/21 season. The Texas A&M product had this to say about his squad’s performance, “Great team win, we had a good collective effort by multiple guys that helped lead us to a win.” Check out my exclusive interview with Josh Nebo when he recently joined The Sports Rabbi Show Holy Land Hoops.
3) It was fun to see how Kwan Cheatham, Patrick Miller and Davion Berry played for Nes Ziona as all three made fine debuts for Brad Greenberg’s team which should be a constant threat to any club throughout the season.
What can you say about Jonathan Skjoldebrand who looked like he didn’t miss a beat at 37 years of age. He’s still hitting his shots, plays tough inside and leads by example with Eilat. The Swedish Israeli who was born in Amirim was in Spain for the end of last campaign but that didn’t make a difference as he was hot as hot can be.
3-Pointers on Haifa’s win over Nahariya
1) What can you say about Donta Smith? He looked like he did when he starred in Israel for both the Greens from 2012-2014 and Hapoel Jerusalem between 2014-2016. It was if time was tuned back a number of years and maybe that wouldn’t be such a bad thing with the coronavirus! Smith set the tone in his first game back in Israel and didn’t look back. Hopefully we will see this type of performance game in and game out this season.
2) “I missed Israel,” began Donta Smith following the win. “It was always a good place for me and it was time to come back. I have great memories from playing here at Romema.” He also spoke about the squad and his connection to Coach Seaone, “We have a lot of young players who want to improve and develop and they bring a lot of energy. I know the coach for many years and I am happy to be here.”
3) Not to be overshadowed, but Chris Dowe looked like the scorer he was a couple of years ago when he starred for Nes Ziona and also with Anwil last season. He did what he does best which is score and that’s a good thing for Seaone’s squad who have a number of weapons at his disposal this campaign.
Kalin Lucas looked fantastic for Nahariya and so much different than the player who was here a couple of years who with Hapoel Jerusalem. It looked like coach Danny Franco gave him the keys to the car and had the confidence to let him loose. If Lucas can be the on court leader than he has proven to be in the past at other stops in his career, there is no reason to think that he won’t succeed in his second stint in the Holy Land.