Hapoel Tel Aviv defeated Hapoel Jerusalem 89-87 in a thrilling contest to capture the Winner League Tel Aviv Tournament title. J’Covan Brown was named the Most Valuable Player of the tournament as his team will now prepare to meet Maccabi Ramat Gan in Winner Cup quarterfinal action on Friday afternoon while Jerusalem will face Hapoel Beer Sheva on Saturday night with both games being played back at the Drive In Arena.
In what was a tight game throughout the entire forty minutes, both Red teams looked to take home the coveted trophy in the first edition of the preseason competition leading into the Winner Cup tourney that also featured Promitheas from Greece and Italian outfit Sassari.
Danny Franco’s squad saw clutch shooting and leadership from veteran guard J’Covan Brown along with Xavier Munford and Jaylen Hoard out of the gate while Aleksandar Dzikic’s team received solid play from Yovel Zoosman and Khadeen Carrington early on as the game went into halftime tied at 46-46. Brown continued scoring as did Munford in the second half as Bar Timor’s clutch baskets as time wound down helped Hapoel Tel Aviv to the win.
Brown led the way with 20 points, Munford chipped in with 17 points, Hoard scored 15 points and Timor added 12 points in the win. Zoosman scored 13 points while Carrington and Cornelius each scored 10 points in the loss.
“It’s always good to win,” Hapoel Tel Aviv coach Danny Franco began. “We know that the se games would be different especially since they are back to back. We couldn’t find our defensive prowess but we were fine offensively. In the last quarter we were able to get a bit of separation and we were able to win. I’m happy that we were able to win the game as Jerusalem are a good team. Some players are in better shape than others but it was good that we won and we have to keep this victory in proportion.”
“I’m more satisfied than yesterday even though we lost,” Jerusalem head coach Aleksandar Dzikic said. “I won’t make comments about some things, I wouldn’t be more satisfied if we won because that’s not the point, I gave minutes to some of the guys and some responded well and some not. We finished the preseason as of now without injuries and that is the priority. Our performance coach did a good job.”
Xavier Munford spoke about the win, “It was a battle of two good teams and we are still trying to find our rhythm as it’s preseason but it was a good direction for us. We still have to work in things but I feel that we will be alright. Any time these two teams meet, it’s going to be a good game with two good teams. I’m looking forward to the game on Friday as we have some small goals within the team and one is to win all of the preseason trophies that we can.”
Yovel Zoosman spoke about the game from his point of view, “It was a physical and tough game and Hapoel Tel Aviv was better than us in the end. The small things separated us and it’s too bad as we wanted to win the title. They were a bit more focused and sharper than we were. We will look at the video and see what we could have done better.”
It rained 3’s early on in the game as Chris Johnson and Yovel Zoosman went from deep for Hapoel Jerusalem, Xavier Munford and Bar Timor did the same for Hapoel Tel Aviv and while Or Cornelius knocked one down from deep and another from the inside, J’Covan Brown hit a deuce to keep the score all even at 26-26 after ten minutes of play.
Brown kept hitting from downtown for Tel Aviv, Oz Blayzer responded for the capital city reds, Tomer Ginat also began to score from all over the court for Danny Franco’s squad, Khadeen Carrington and Zach Hankins responded but baskets by Idan Zalmanson and Jeff Withey sent the game into halftime all knotted up at 46-46.
Speedy Smith started to find the bucket for Aleksandar Dzikic’s squad to begin the third quarter while Xavier Munford did the same for Danny Franco’s team, Brynton Lemar put in a pair, Gil Beni and Oz Blayzer traded triples but Brown scored at will to give Tel Aviv a 71-70 lead after thirty minutes of action.
Munford scored at will and Brown added points as Hapoel Tel Aviv tried to pull away but Carrington came back with a 3-pointer, Smith added a bucket and then Carrington was fouled on a layup but missed the ensuing free throw allowing Timor to keep Franco’s team in front to take the victory.
In Winner Cup action, the four quarterfinal matches were set after the final two games of the preliminary round were completed.
Hapoel Afula slipped by Hapoel Galil Elyon 82-78 to book a place in the Winner Cup quarterfinals where they will take on Hapoel Holon at the Drive In Arena in Tel Aviv on Thursday night. In a tight game throughout, Casey Shepard and Tyran De Lattibeaudiere helped break a late 73-73 tie to give the first year top division club the win.
Both De Lattibeaudiere with 21 points and 12 rebounds and Spencer Weisz with 10 points and 10 boards recorded double-double for Roie Perel’s team while Shepard scored 12 points in the win. Roi Huber paced Barak Peleg’s team with 17 points and 9 assists while both Vincent Sanford and Brandon Garrett each chipped in with 14 points a piece.
“I’m very content with how the start of the season has begun,” Perel said. “There were plenty of positive points from this game and lots of food for thought as well. I’m happy with the spirit the club showed and that things will continue to improve week after week.”
Hapoel Beer Sheva will also move onto the quarterfinals where they will tipoff against Hapoel Jerusalem after taking care of Hapoel Eilat 93-76 in Dimona. After a very close first half, the southern reds broke open the game in third quarter thanks to dominant play by big man Gilad Levi while outscoring the Red Sea squad 48-35 over the final twenty minutes to take the win.
Levi checked in with a 17 point and 13 rebound double-double while Egor Koulechov, Ron Zipper and Roie Karetsky each scored 12 points in the victory. Elijah Stewart and Tyrus McGee each scored 17 points while Joe Chealey added 13 points in the loss.
“It’s still preseason and sure it’s exciting because it was for a cup, but we are still trying to find ourselves as a team and we have plenty of work to do,” Beer Sheva coach Lior Lubin said.
“We had to work a lot and we have along way to go. We also had to face some problems and this game showed exactly this,” Eilat bench boss Massimiliano Menetti said.
The final quarterfinal will pit Maccabi Tel Aviv against Kiryat Ata next Tuesday with the two semifinals slated for the Wednesday and Thursday. The final will be played during Chol Hamoed on Sunday night.