Hapoel Jerusalem knocked out Hapoel Tel Aviv literally and figuratively from the Israel State Cup with a 86-67 victory at the Drive In Arena to advance to the semifinals. The capital city reds came out like a house on fire and never let up as Khadeen Carrington made his first start of the season and propelled Aleksandar Dzikic’s squad to a quick lead with shock and awe offense and aggressive defense. Speedy Smith and Zach Hankins finished off the masterpiece as they ran the attack to perfection and never took their foot off the pedal to punch their ticket to the Final Four.
Carrington set the tone early with a pair of triples while Zach Hankins and Mareks Majeris scored inside to give Jerusalem a double digit 23-12 lead after the first quarter while starlet Noam Yaacov made his debut for the reds in the addition frame which saw the visitors go up 43-29 by halftime.
J’Covan Brown and Tomer Ginat tried to keep Danny Franco’s team in the game as the second half got underway but Speedy Smith and Oz Blayzer got busy to keep Jerusalem ahead 65-47 after thirty minutes while Hankins polished off the victory with dunks a plenty to take the 19-point victory.
Hankins led the way with 18 points and 17 rebounds, Carrington added 17 points, Smith chipped in with 16 points and 8 assists while Mejeris scored 12 points in the win. Brown scored 18 points and Ginat added 10 points in the loss.
“The cup is a specific competition and it’s a knock out game and the players understood that,” Coach Dzikic explained. “We won at the end and that’s a good thing. When you win these types of games it projects on other games that follow and not necessarily in a good way. We have to find a balance of what we did in this game going forward. We have a giant killer next game in Bnei Herzliya and they beat Maccabi Tel Aviv, Hapoel Tel Aviv and us. To underestimate them would be a mistake.”
“There is no question that this was a bad game and we knew what a Cup game is,” Franco said. “There isn’t one person who didn’t want to win this game and I’m not going to make up any excuses. We were a bit confused maybe from our last win over Jerusalem, but we didn’t look anything like Hapoel Tel Aviv in this game. It’s too bad that this had to happen in a cup game but this is what it is.”
Oz Blayzer looked back at the victory, “We came out aggressive which is something that we had been missing recently and we knew the importance of the game. Now we are just two wins away from the Cup.”
Hapoel Tel Aviv captain Tomer Ginat spoke about the game from his point of view, “Jerusalem ran and we were unable to do what we are regularly doing. There is obviously pressure but we didn’t go into it with extra pressure and Jerusalem really played tough on defense. We wanted to try and close down the rebounds in the second half and get back into the game, but it didn’t work out.”
Khadeen Carrington and Or Cornelius dialled up long distance to get Hapoel Jerusalem on the board and into the lead up 9-3 midway through the first quarter. Chinanu Onuaku and Tomer Ginat scored in the paint, Carrington and Brandon Brown went from deep, Zach Hankins, Mareks Majeris and Itay Segev found points inside to give the capital city reds a 23-12 lead after ten minutes of play.
Noam Yaacov made his Jerusalem debut and sent a missile of a pass to Segev who put in the easy bucket, but JP Tokoto and Bar Timor came back quickly with points, Xavier Munford drilled home a triple but Cornelius scored a layup to keep Aleksandar Dzikic’s team ahead 29-22 with five minutes remaining in the second quarter. Hankins with a turnaround one handed bucket, Mejeris with points inside, a pair of off balance jumpers by Carrignton and an easy deuce by Speedy Smith kept Jerusalem rolling as they took a 43-29 lead at halftime.
J’Covan Brown and Tomer Ginat found points inside, Mejeris responded, Hankins hit a turnaround hook shot for an and-one while Smith nailed a 3-pointer to keep Jerusalem in front 54-35 midway through the third quarter. Cornelius hit a corner 3-ball, Smith added a triple as well, Brown tried to keep the hosts in the game, by Oz Blayzer scored his first points of the game with a pair of triples to keep the visitors ahead 65-47 after thirty minutes of action.
Adam Ariel opened the fourth quarter with a 3-pointer, Idan Zalmanson added a bucket inside, Hankins answered with a big dunk and followed up with a one handed jam, Smith dialled up long distance and Hankins added another basket to give Jerusalem a 74-60 lead with five minutes remaining in regulation time. Brown went from deep, Hankins dunked and Carrington nailed a 3-pointer to put the cherry on top of the victory.