Hapoel Holon needed a big fourth quarter to take out the league’s newcomer Hapoel Afula 79-64 as the purples advanced to the semifinals of the Winner Cup preseason tournament. Shawn Dawson filled the basket all game long while Amine Noua and Justin Smith came up big down the stretch to overcome a tremendous 25 point effort by Kasey Sheperd to take the win.
Hapoel Afula grabbed an early lead with Tyran de Lattibeaudiere and Yanick Moreira doing the damage both inside and outside but triples from Netanel Artzi, Ahmad Caver and Yotam Hanochi along with points by Shawn Dawson for Hapoel Holon evened the score up at 22-22 after ten minutes of action. Dawson and Hanochi both continued their scoring barrage to begin the second quarter, Kasey Sheperd countered with points a plenty so did de Lattibeaudiere while Spencer Weisz nailed a 3-pointer to end the half and give Roye Perel’s team a 46-40 advantage.
Hanochi and Sheperd traded triples, Justin Smith and CJ Harris scored for Amit Sherf’s squad but despite losing Moriera to an injury and only playing with two import players, Sheperd kept Afula ahead 57-55 after thirty minutes of play. However, Smith scored back to back baskets to begin the fourth quarter, Amine Noua added a basket and Dawson drilled home a 3-pointer as the purples ran an exhausted Afula out of the building to move on in the preseason competition.
Dawson led the way with 19 points while Noua and Hanochi each scored 13 points in the victory. Sheperd scored 25 points and de Lattibeaudiere added 11 points in the loss.
“We played well but we every time we allowed Kasey Sheperd to score it was as if we weren’t in the game,” Holon coach Amit Sherf explained. “When we put pressure on the ball we were able to do what we needed to and we controlled the pace of play. We were down by a wide margin in the second quarter and in the third we were able to come back and play our game and eventually take the win.”
“I believe that we have the right tools to succeed, they are good guys and good teammates. But we still need to do a lot of things and we will have another game next Wednesday as we still need more contests to prepare for the league. We needed to stop a player like Shepard earlier and not allow someone to score as much as he did.”
“For the first three quarters we played really well on both sides of the court,” a content Afula coach Roie Petel said. “But Yanick’s injury and exhaustion determined the result of the game. We are a bit behind in our preparation as it usually takes me 6 weeks to build up my team. We have a new import that’s coming in and we have to begin somewhat again. I feel good about the game against a very good team with terrific imports and Israelis and we were able to play with them. This is just a benchmark as to where we are at this point of the season and we will continue to improve.”
Yotam Hanochi reflected on the contest, “We began quite shaky and little by little we got into the game. We were able to get to the second half and we broke down our opponent by working hard in the third quarter and then we were able to take the win in the fourth. We are in a good spot now and we are still improving and we have a pretty high ceiling with a lot of quality. I think that we can do plenty of great things. We aren’t there yet but I’m very optimistic so far.”
Kasey Sheperd spoke about the game from his viewpoint, “It was a good effort and we came in with good energy and played hard but we ran out of gas towards the end and there were mistakes along the way. We showed some good things at the end and I feel that we have unlimited potential with the energy and potential we played with.”