Jerusalem clips Maccabi to take Israeli Classico ahead of huge European week for both teams

May 7, 2023 | Holyland Hoops

Hapoel Jerusalem downed Maccabi Tel Aviv 83-76 in the Israeli Classico just ahead of critical European contests for each team the coming week. The reds saw the trio of Speedy Smith, Zach Hankins and Oz Blayzer come up big time and time again cancelling out Jarell Martin, Wade Baldwin and Rafi Menco to take the win as they ready for the Basketball Champions League Final Four semifinal on Friday. For the yellow-and-blue, they will prepare to tip-off against Monaco on Wednesday night in a decisive game five with the winner heading to the Euroleague Final Four in Kaunas.

Smith led the way with 17 points and 7 assists, Hankins added 16 points and Blayzer chipped in with 14 points in the win. Martin led Maccabi with 18 points, Baldwin scored 14 points and Menco added 13 points in the loss.

Aleksandar Dzikic – Photo Credit: Yehuda Halickman

“This game didn’t move us at the end, we are third and they are first and still both teams played to win,” Aleksandar Dzikic said. “They played without Brown, Colson and Dibartolomeo which is a fact. We won, but is this a game that will help us have more confidence ahead of the final four? We had different goals and sometimes the goal is not to win at the end, sometimes the goal is to see other things. The best is that there were no injuries for us and for them.”

Oded Katash – Photo Credit: Yehuda Halickman

“This was a weird game for us, lots of defensive mistakes and we weren’t focused on both ends of the floor,” Oded Katash said. “We missed many open 3-pointers as well. This was an important game and we came here wanting to win. But we also have a very important game coming up. We needed to do a better job on the defensive end and we were also missing some guards.”

Oz Blayzer – Photo Credit: Yehuda Halickman

Oz Blayzer spoke about the victory, “We came to win the game and we have a big week coming up but it was an intensive game. For me personally it was a good game and I know what I can do but after the last injury it took me time to come back. I’m trying to do my best every time that I am on the floor and I will do what I need to anytime the coach calls my name.”

Alex Poythress – Photo Credit: Yehuda Halickman

Alex Poythress reflected on the game, “We’re very disappointed and this was a winnable game. We feel we can always win and we have the talent to do so. We are professionals and we go game by game, they are a great opponent.”

Zach Hankins and Jarell Martin – Photo Credit: Yehuda Halickman

Zach Hankins worked the inside for Hapoel Jerusalem while Alex Poythress and Jarell Martin did the same for Maccabi Tel Aviv as they took a slim 10-9 lead midway through the first quarter. Brandon Brown and Oz Blayzer both went from deep, while Josh Nebo dunked for the yellow-and-blue as the Reds grabbed a 20-17 lead after ten minutes of play.

Levi Randolph and Speedy Smith – Photo Credit: Yehuda Halickman

Nebo and TJ Cline traded baskets to begin the second quarter, Guy Pnini went from downtown as did Blayzer for a pair to keep Aleksandar Dzikic’s team in front 28-24 with 5:04 left in the first half. Speedy Smith went from deep, Hankins dunked, Wade Baldwin dialled up long distance but so did Smith while Levi Randolph hit a shot at the buzzer to head onto halftime with a 41-36 advantage.

Rafi Menco – Photo Credit: Yehuda Halickman

Rafi Menco and Martin got busy for Oded Katash’s team, Siim Sander-Vene went from deep for the hosts while Or Cornelius and Menco traded buckets as the score was all knotted up at 50-50 midway through the third quarter. Hankins and Menco scored for their respective teams, Blayzer, Itay Segev and Brown all found points to keep the score tied up at 61-61 after thirty minutes of action.

Zach Hankins – Photo Credit: Yehuda Halickman

Menco and Brown traded triples, Baldwin went deep as well, while Vene also checked in with a corner 3-ball as Jerusalem retook the lead 70-67 with five minutes remaining in regulation time. Poythress put in a deuce, Smith went from beyond the arc, Baldwin came back with points but Hankins put down an open dunk and Cornelius put in a layup to wrap up the victory.

In other action, Hapoel Tel Aviv topped Nes Ziona 103-91 to keep their hopes alive to finish in first place with the Tel Aviv Derby coming up on the weekend. Nes Ziona took a 54-48 lead at halftime but the reds used a 55-37 second half to take the win. Tomer Ginat starred with 24 points and 10 rebounds, J’Covan Brown added 19 points and Jordan McRae put in 17 points in the win. Ronnie Harrell scored 19 points, DJ Cooper added 17 points and Tzuf Ben Moshe scored 13 points in the loss.

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