Jerusalem captures Winner Cup Preseason Tournament

Oct 1, 2023 | Holyland Hoops

Hapoel Jerusalem captured the Winner Cup title by downing Maccabi Tel Aviv 79-71 in a tight battle at the Drive In Arena. After a close first half in which Levi Randolph paced the Reds but fell behind the yellow-and-blue thanks to stellar play by Bonzie Colson, Speedy Smith proved to be unstoppable over the final twenty minutes. Smith, who took MVP honors scored from beyond the arc and inside the paint while Yovel Zoosman hit the back breaking 3-pointer to help Jerusalem to the their first preseason title since 2019.

Just prior to the game, Maccabi announced that Wade Baldwin had a stiff back and needed an injection, however, he did not play while Josh Nebo came up injured with what looked to be a groin issue and only played 9 minutes

Speedy Smith – Photo Credit: Yehuda Halickman

Smith led the way with 21 points, Randolph added 17 points, Zach Hankins chipped in with 13 points and Yovel Zoosman scored 10 points in the win. Lorenzo Brown scored 16 points while Colson and John Dibartolomeo added 13 points each in the loss.

Aleksandar Dzikic – Photo Credit: Yehuda Halickman

Jerusalem head coach Aleksandar Dzikic spoke about what changed between the two halves, “Some of the players I challenged directly and concept wise we tried to do somethings with better execution. Speedy made some shots and if we want to be honest it’s helpful when they don’t play with Baldwin and Nebo. I’m not fooling myself but at the same time I’m not going to say my guys didn’t deserve to win.”

Oded Katash – Photo Credit: Yehuda Halickman

“We came into the game that was played at a very high intense level and had a good first half,” Maccabi coach Oded Katash said. “But the second half Jerusalem played very well defensively. We can take a lot from this game as the Euroleague season begins on Thursday.”

Levi Randolph – Photo Credit: Yehuda Halickman

Jerusalem captain Levi Randolph reflected on the win, “I just know that we are putting in a lot of hard work. I knew that we had to figure it our defensively and that was coach’s message to us at halftime and bring more energy and effort, the team embraced it. Credit to Maccabi they have some very good players and I’m proud that we were able to compete and get a win.

Jake Cohen – Photo Credit: Yehuda Halickman

Jake Cohen spoke about where things began to slip away for Maccabi, “A lot started with how we stared in the third quarter, they picked up their defense and we didn’t match it. Hopefully we can take a lot of good things out of the game, the intensity and pressure is what we will see in the Euroleague and we will need to make some adjustments.”

Levi Randolph – Photo Credit: Yehuda Halickman

Levi Randolph and Speedy Smith got busy early for Hapoel Jerusalem while Bonzie Colson responded for Maccabi Tel Aviv to stay close midway through the first quarter, but a pair of triples by John Dibartolomeo helped the yellow-and-blue toe the game up at 20-20 after ten minutes of action.

Bonzie Colson – Photo Credit: Yehuda Halickman

Colson led off the second quarter with a triple, Lorenzo Brown turned Yovel Zoosman around in the paint as Josh Nebo and Jasiel Rivero scored to bump the Maccabi lead up to 33-25 with 5:20 left in the first half. Rafi Menco with a jumper, Roman Sorkin with points and Dibartolomeo with a floater gave Oded Katash’s team more breathing room as Oz Blayzer and Menco traded triples but Maccabi went into halftime up 43-35.

Zach Hankins – Photo Credit: Yehuda Halickman

Zach Hankins scored a trio of buckets to begin the third quarter as Smith drained a pair of 3-pointers to put Aleksandar Dzikic’s club in front 48-45 midway through the frame. Hankins dunked, Colson came back with a pair of baskets, Gaby Chachashvili scored a 3-point play, but a long deuce by Brown kept Maccabi hanging around but down 56-51 after thirty minutes of action.

Yovel Zoosman – Photo Credit: Yehuda Halickman

Randolph picked Brown’s pocket for a layup, Dibartolomeo went in for a 3-point play and a deuce while Brown went off the glass but Randolph with a pair of buckets gave the Reds a 62-59 lead with 5:48 remaining. Zoosman put in a rebound, Smith added a 3-point play, Randolph chipped in with a basket as Smith and Zoosman each hit triples to give Jerusalem the Winner Cup title.

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