Hapoel Jerusalem move into the EuroCup Semifinals

Hapoel Jerusalem advanced to the EuroCup semifinals after defeating Gran Canaria 85-79 to take the best of 3 series 2-0. Curtis Jerrells had the hot hand for the Reds dropping 23 points while Jerome Dyson scored 16 points and Amare Stoudemire hit for 15 points to go along with 8 rebounds. Sasu Salin scored 17 points and Albert Oliver dropped 16 points in the loss for Gran Canaria.

1) Jerusalem will need to wait until Wednesday night to find out the identity of their semifinal opponent as Valencia and Khimki are even at one game a piece in their series. Should Valencia win, the first game of the semifinal series will take place in Spain while if the Moscow based team are victorious, the first contest will be at the Jerusalem Arena.

However, due to the Jerusalem Marathon, the Arena is busy with a sporting goods show all week long, a problem that the city will need to address. Should Hapoel face Valencia game 2 is scheduled to take place on Friday March 17th, the same day as the Marathon itself and since the game wouldn’t be played on Friday night, game time would be in the afternoon. The other option is that the game could be moved to Thursday night or Saturday night. Needless to say, there’s never a dull moment.

2) Congratulations to coach Simone Pianigiani who successfully guided the Reds into the EuroCup Final Four with a game to spare. With a full week off ahead for Jerusalem, they will have some time to rest and relax before hitting the hardwood again on Saturday night at the Drive-In against Hapoel Tel Aviv. But really hats off to the Italian Maestro, what a brilliant job he’s done this season. Put aside the State Cup loss and the not so ideal regular season, Pianigiani has done exactly what the club and ownership set out to do; try and win the EuroCup and get the free ticket into the EuroLeague.

There’s certainly a way to go, but they are getting closer and closer. Simone has said it all along which is to be in the competitions until the end. You’ve got to be in it, to win it. The State Cup was a one game final which we all know could have gone either way on any given day and the season itself is a very long marathon which is not nearly close to being over. It’s clear that Hapoel has the goods to play into the final and as they saw last season, you can finish in 6th place and still win the championship, which is clearly a fault in the league. But if I’m Jerusalem, why not take advantage of it?

3) Israelis Yotam Halperin and Lior Eliyahu accounted for 32 out of 200 minutes last night and provided 9 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists. Bar Timor is hurt and Shawn Jones will get preference over Isaac Rosefelt so it was what was to be expected in a EuroCup game. The addition of Aviram Zelcovitz from Bnei Herzliya will be helpful in Israeli league play and the signing was a prudent and important move. I’m not a stickler for having Israelis play X minutes, but I certainly want to have Israelis playing a role on each team in the country; it gives us our identity and that’s something that we don’t want to lose. However, I do remember when Jerusalem fans used to get on Maccabi Tel Aviv for the less than ideal Israeli situation on the Yellow & Blue. Interestingly enough, there were stretches of Maccabi’s EuroLeague game this past Thursday night where 5 Israelis were on the court at once. The bottom line is, try to do the best you can with Israeli content, but at the end of the day, especially in Europe, the goal is to win and you have to do it with the best you have. I’m sure that’s what all of the fans want to see in any event, the best effort with the best team possible.

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