Hannahs leads Hapoel Tel Aviv in win over Hapoel Jerusalem who look to get back on track under Kantzouris ahead of crucial BCL clash

Mar 17, 2024 | Holyland Hoops

Hapoel Tel Aviv was bounced out of Europe last week in brutal fashion after holding an 18-point halftime lead over eventual winners Besiktas as they sent the Reds packing from the EuroCup at the quarterfinal stage. After such a defeat, it was only natural to see what type of effect that this loss was going to have on Danny Franco and his squad as they headed back home to Israeli league action with both the championship and State Cup still in play between March and June.

Would they be able to come out and perform at the level they have been all season long? Would there be some sort of head hanging and depression after such a tough defeat? What type of reaction would Hapoel Tel Aviv be able to show in just a few days since returning to the Holy Land?

Danny Franco – Photo Yehuda Halickman


All of those above questions were answered in resounding fashion by the Reds as clear and concise as possible; we are going to put every ounce of effort into the upcoming months with the goal of winning the two remaining available titles in an absolute 91-64 drubbing of Hapoel Jerusalem on the road in the capital city. With well over 1,000 travelling fans, Franco’s charges kept the game close over the opening 10 minutes, began making their mark in the second quarter to take a slim 37-33 lead at halftime which led to a tremendous 26-11 third period that was followed up by a final frame that was loaded up with garbage time galore. Game, Set, Match.

In some aspects, it was absolutely stunning as to how Hapoel Tel Aviv were able to come out of halftime and do as they pleased against a Jerusalem team that folded up like a cheap suit in a third quarter that the players, staff and fans would like to forget and forget quickly especially on their home court.

While Franco was able to work on his squad with an emphasis on the mental aspect after their EuroCup ousting, Jerusalem’s Ilias Kantzouris was unable to recover from a listless Basketball Champions League Round of 16 Group Stage defeat at the hands of Peristeri. That loss, coupled with a 2-5 record in Israeli league play since the start of February coming into the Hapoel Tel Aviv matchup shows just how much the Reds are struggling under their new bench boss ahead of a huge final continental matchup coming up this week that could leave the team looking from the outside in to the postseason.

Ilias Kantzouris – Photo Credit: Yehuda Halickman


As the fans booed the Greek tactician off of the floor after the game, it was clear that there is no love affair between the supporters and bench boss which should not come as any surprise after the disheartening results.

“Fans are fans and they love our team. They have the right to react as to how they feel while my job is inside the four lines to protect the players and club,” Kantzouris said.

But back to Hapoel Tel Aviv and how Franco worked his magic to perfection. First off, there’s no question that he worked the mental side of the game since the devastating European defeat and that despite some pretty hard feelings immediately after the loss, everyone from top to bottom were able to put their egos aside. Perhaps this was able to be done so effectively due to the fact that Franco has a couple of veteran Israeli players on his roster in Tomer Ginat and Bar Timor who were able to calm the waters with the foreigners. That is a fact that can’t be taken lightly. Very few teams have a pair of Sabras with the stature of Ginat and Timor and there’s no question that their voices hold a lot of weight amongst the team.

Bar Timor – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman


“We didn’t stand up to our goal in Europe,” Timor said. “It was tough after going up by so many points and then losing the lead. We really had to reflect on it which was a very tough point for us as players and for the staff and management.”

“I manage the players and I am responsible for the good and for the bad,” Franco said. “We have two titles that we will be battling for. Unfortunately, we only got so far in Europe. I have to give credit to the entire management team and ownership who knew how to give us some quiet after the loss and give us the confidence. We received so much support from so many different places that we knew we would come in here and fight. It was tough to just show up with one practice before the game but the work was all in the players heads. The mental side is always important, we lost J’Covan Brown in the first half in Lithuania and we don’t really know when he will be back and I am happy that the guys knew how to respond here in Jerusalem.”

Second, Franco was able to bring on a fresh Dusty Hannahs who was unable to play in the EuroCup loss due to having signed with Hapoel after the signing window was shut. Hannahs who is known to be a stellar shooter did not have the baggage that any of the other players had after playing in the loss to Besiktas. The sharpshooter, who is also a naturalized Israeli was just what the doctor ordered for Franco and company as he came off the bench and went 3/5 from beyond the arc and 5/6 from inside of it good for 23 points. Hannahs provided that extra offense that was clearly needed by Hapoel Tel Aviv as only Kyle Alexander and John Holland was able to find he basket early on in the game and were the only reason that the visitors stayed afloat until Hannahs and Timor began to hit their shots in the middle two frames of the game.

Dusty Hannahs – Photo Credit: Yehuda Halickman


“We are learning Dusty on the fly so to speak,” Franco said about Hannash. “We haven’t had many practices so we are learning together his style of play with the team. He is learning both our offense and defense and sometimes he needs to be reminded as to what to do. He is also a player that I have seen at the summer league. He is the type of player who has been able to feel free and comfortable on the court and this is before he has made any adjustments to play in Europe.”

“We had all told him that games in Jerusalem are not going to be ones that will be a 30-point difference and that did something to him as he came in ready and prepared. I am proud as to how he played and I told him that after the game. I don’t know how we could have done this without him and it gives us hope that we have yet another tool also one that is an Israeli that can help us as the season continues on.”

Bar Timor also spoke about his new teammate, “Dusty is a scorer by nature, you see it in practice, none of us were surprised by what happened in this game. He really fits into the social fabric of this team, which was something that we feared a bit, but his introduction into the club has worked well for everyone. So it’s not a surprise, he was excellent today.”

Dusty Hannahs – Photo Credit: Yehuda Halickman


Kantzouris, who had Hannahs on his roster back in 2020 with Kolossos Rodou is familiar with the Arkansas native and knew full well what type of damage that he could create, “I know him very well as I coached him in the past and we were prepared for him as we prepared for the entire Hapoel Tel Aviv team. We didn’t underestimate them and we didn’t show the right attention to the players. It has to do with us and collapsing in the third quarter.”

Kantzouris and his team had no answers as the coach had trouble finding the right time to call a timeout in the second quarter while he watched his team crumble before his very eyes in the third period as Hapoel Tel Aviv sliced through his defense like a hot knife through butter.

“It’s more than just X’s and O’s,” Zach Hankins commented after the game. “It was tactical and also mental ass they hit a couple of key 3-pointers and they stuck together to their man closer. We had to react and stay with the game plan. We can’t hang our heads and every player knows how to handle that but every single one of us hung our heads and that takes away your awareness and mentality.”

Zach Hankins – Photo Credit: Yehuda Halickman


There’s no question that Hapoel Jerusalem’s do or die game this coming week is far more important than any league game right now and without a pure point guard in Speedy Smith who was resting and wasn’t registered for this league matchup, the Reds put themselves in an almost impossible situation. The lack of productivity by Yovel Zoosman, Or Cornelius along with Khadeen Carrington and Levi Randolph cost them as there was no one able to orchestrate the offense which led to atrocious defense.

How much longer can Jerusalem along with their brass see the Israeli season coming a part at the seams? How much more can they take their fans who are losing patience by the millisecond?

Sports Director, Yonatan Alon along with CEO Alon Kremer and the ownership group including former NBA guard Gal Mekel will need to make a move sooner than later because things are just not working under Kantzouris who adopted Aleksandar Dzikic’s roster.

Ilias Kantzouris – Photo Credit: Yehuda Halickman


“We are together,” Kantzouris claimed. “This is what we discussed and we do what we do really well. For a big part of the game we showed that when we work as team we can do a lot of things, but it’s not enough to play 22-24 minutes against such an opponent. We have to be more consistent and mentally tough.”

While the coach and players are all saying the right things and have publicly shown support for one another, the fact of the matter is something just isn’t clicking and there are probably a million and one reasons as to why. But for right now, the two, the players and coach are heading to Bosnia and Herzegovina where they will play Karsiyaka in a game that will determine if they will continue on in Europe or not.

Even if Jerusalem loses in this game, they will most probably advance to the BCL quarterfinals due to point differential. However, there is no way that either coach or players want to back into the postseason and that maybe, just maybe this will be a chance for all of the parties involved to get back onto the same page and turn around the rough couple of months that they have been growing through.

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