I love the challenge – Jerusalem takes slim 75-73 lead after Game 1 versus Tenerife

Hapoel Jerusalem defeated Tenerife 75-73 in the first of their two game total points quarterfinal series in the Basketball Champions League. The Reds took a 45-36 lead into halftime on the strength of James Feldeine and J’Covan Brown but a 17-0 run led by Colton Iverson and Tom Abromaitis gave Tenerife 53-45 lead in the third quarter. However, the Reds showed character over the final 15 minutes as a pair of Brown free throws gave Jerusalem the slim 2-point win as they head into the second game in the Canary Islands next Wednesday.

J’Covan Brown scored 20 points to lead Hapoel Jerusalem while James Feldeine added 18 points and Amare Stoudemire chipped in with 13 points for the Reds. Colton Iverson was dominant in the paint scoring 20 points and grabbing 12 rebounds as Tim Abromaitis dropped 16 points for Tenerife.

Jerusalem jumped out to a 15-10 lead midway through the first quarter with Feldeine and Owens pacing the Reds. Sebastián Saiz helped Tenerife cut the lead but a Brown buzzer beater bucket gave Oded Katash’s squad a 22-17 lead after ten minutes.

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Saiz and Lucca Staiger pulled Tenerife even with a pair of quick baskets to start the second quarter but a pair of Thomas thundering dunks brought the lead back to 5-points, 31-26 with 5:34 remaining in the half. Brown caught fire for the host’s while Abromaitis and Iverson tried their best to keep Tenerife in the game as Jerusalem headed into halftime sporting a 45-36 advantage.

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Iverson and Abromaitis once again went to work for Tenerife at the start of the second half and ripped off a 17-0 run to give the visitor’s a 47-45 lead midway through the frame. Stoudemire and Feldeine tried to get Jerusalem back into the game but could only pull to within 4 points, 59-55 at the end of thirty minutes.

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Stoudemire scored five quick points to help the Reds get back into the game but Iverson and Brussino kept Tenerife in the lead 69-67 with 3:30 left in the contest. Brown and Feldeine gave Jerusalem a short lived lead until Iverson cancelled it out with 16.5 seconds remaining, 73-73. However, a pair of Brown free throws gave Jerusalem a 75-73 win in the first of two games in the total points series with the second contest taking place next Wednesday at Tenerife.

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1) The story of the game has to be the 17-0 run that Tenerife went on to start the 3rd quarter to turn around a 45-36 Jerusalem lead to a 53-45 advantage for the ACB Spanish league squad. Jerusalem was nowhere to be found for the first 6 minutes of the second half as the visitor’s scored and scored and scored. Will it potentially cost Jerusalem a place in the Final Four? Katash believes it could, “It’s possible that it will cost us but I believe that we can also go on such a run. We didn’t play our typical game in the third quarter. It was a tough battle and a very aggressive game. We didn’t score in the first six minutes of the second half and they went on a 17-0 run which isn’t something you see every day. We responded well but there were things that hurt us a lot.” J’Covan Brown also talked about the dreadful performance in the frame, “We had a letdown in the third. We went 5-6 minutes without scoring a basket. That just shows the character of our team to just find ways to win games. They are a great team. But we stayed together to win the game.” Tashawn Thomas spoke about the lack of hitting their shots, “A lot for the shots we were knocking down in the first half we were missing. I’m just happy that we responded well.” Finally, James Feldeine also commented on the quarter and had a glimmer of hope, “That was tough the run they had. We got a little confused and came out a little sluggish. We can’t start quarters like that against anybody. I actually didn’t know it was 17. It’s tough. We got to get better.”

2) But as bamboozled as Jerusalem was at the start of the second half, credit has to be given to Tenerife and how they responded and adjusted in the second half. They came out like a house on fire and made the necessary changes. The day before the game Jerusalem’s Amare Stoudemire talked about how crucial it would be to adjust quickly because they didn’t have the luxury of a longer series. However, it was Tenerife who ended up making those adjustments as veteran guard Lucca Staiger explained, “We didn’t play well on the first half and we all knew the mistakes we had made which were unnecessary and stupid. We talked about it in the locker room at halftime and tried to change in the second half and we managed to do so.” Will Tenerife’s fine performance give them confidence as the series now heads to the Canary Islands? Coach Txus Vidorreta doesn’t believe so, “Hapoel is a great team with great players. They have a great coach who prepares the team well for their games. There’s no confidence at all. We know that it’s a new game and that we have to win by more than two points.”

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3) Reacting to Tenerife’s size was a problem for Jerusalem just as it has been throughout the season. The Reds have an issue dealing with the size of some of the players and teams that they have played throughout the year and last night was no exception. Bigger guards, forwards and centers always seem to cause a slew of issues for Katash’s squad, “Colton Iverson was aggressive and took many offensive rebounds. The way they attacked the offensive rebounds is something that we have to work on for the next game. They knew how to punish us on our defensive switches much better than we thought and we will have to do a lot better in that area. It’s possible that we tried to play bigger on some of their players and we have to change some of the matchups.” Iverson himself was pretty content following the game at an arena where he had won the State Cup with Maccabi Tel Aviv, “We knew it was important to keep it close because of the point difference. If we made a couple of less mistakes and more shots we’d be in a better position but overall we’re pleased with the result. They switched on a lot of screens so we knew of we could get the big guys on the guards outside we knew we could take advantage of that a bit. We can probably expect something different for next week. It felt good to be back and the fans are great. Jerusalem has a great environment. I definitely remember winning the State Cup here for sure.” His keys for the next game? “We have to play physical and Jerusalem is a very tough team. They’re capable of playing better so we have to rebound and play defense and hopefully come away with the victory.”

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Can Jerusalem still advance at one of the toughest facilities and locations in all of Europe? Will the stars come out and shine? Katash knows that there is a huge challenge ahead for his team, “We know that the two points is nothing I would say the same if it was 8 or 10 points. We will have to go there and play good basketball and show good character. The next game is open.” Feldeine will try his hardest and lay it all out on the floor, “It’s halftime and we have a long trip and we’ve got a game in between. But I’ve played at Tenerife many times and this is why we play. I love the challenge.”

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