Hapoel Jerusalem defeated Maccabi Rishon Le’Zion 73-65 at Beit Maccabi. The host’s led throughout the contest, but the Reds held Rishon to only 8 fourth quarter points while J’Covan Brown came up big over the final ten minutes to give Oded Katash’s squad the win.
Brown led Jerusalem with 17 points, Suleiman Braimoh notched a double double with 12 points and 12 rebounds while James Feldeine also added 12 points in the win. Jordan Swing scored 20 points, James Kelly chipped in with a 14 point and 12 rebound performance and Oz Blayzer scored 13 points in the loss.
Jordan Swing has the hot hand for Rishon Le’Zion early while Nimrod Levi and Idan Zalmanson scored for Jerusalem to keep the game even at 14-14 midway through the first quarter. Tamir Blatt continued to dish out assists as Suleiman Braimoh scored inside to give Jerusalem a 22-18 lead after ten minutes of action.
Oz Blayzer and Jordan Swing scored early to pull even while Swing and Nimrod Tishman hit 3-pointers for Rishon but triples by Blatt and J’Covan Brown kept Oded Katash’s squad in front 32-31 with 4:08 remaining in the second quarter. More points from Swing and Alex Hamilton along with a James Kelly dunk handed Guy Goodes’s team a 41-38 lead at the half.
Swing and Kelly kept providing the offense for Rishon while James Feldeine began to score but the hosts stayed in front 53-49 midway through the third quarter. Noam Dovrat and Kelly hit free throws as Tashawn Thomas and Nimrod Levi scored for the visitors as they headed into the final frame down 57-55.
Levi and Briamoh hit back to back triples for Jerusalem but Blayzer answered right back for Rishon, however, Brown drilled another 3-pointer home as the Reds took a 64-60 lead with 4:37 remaining in regulation time. Thomas scored inside Feldeine from the outside and Brown notched points from the line as Jerusalem wrapped up a 73-65 victory.
1) Jerusalem used a real team effort to record the win over Rishon as the Reds featured six players with 9 points or more. But not only were the points distributed amongst the players, Katash’s squad buckled down over the final ten minutes and stopped Rishon from creating pretty much any offense. “We played basic basketball in the last quarter and we played aggressively to close off the rebound,” said Katash. J’Covan Brown who came up clutch at the end of the game also chimed in first dedicating the win for their missing teammate who is in the US with his family, “This win is for you brother. We care about you and wanted to give you a great Christmas present.” He also spoke about the final frame, “Rishon is a tough team and we wanted them to make tough shots. We wanted to stay together tonight. We played like men and got stops at the right time and forced them to make tough shots. One on one and we knew the game was going to come down to that.”
2) Rishon held up well for 3 quarters but then the wheels came flying off over the last ten minutes as they had played a triple overtime game up in Nahariya this past Sunday night. Not only were they wiped out, but Guy Goodes’s team was playing short handed with really just one big man in James Kelly after Johnathan Williams went back to the US to join the Washington Wizards in the NBA. Add to that the fact that Fred Bourdillon is still recuperating from a minor injury and Goodes didn’t have the horses by the end of the contest. The two squads will meet up in February once again in the State Cup semifinals which should be an exciting encounter between the two once again. “We got to the 4th quarter and we were done,” said Goodes. “The trip up north and triple overtime on Sunday night was not easy plus we were playing with just one big. We have to find a solution quickly and we have another game on Saturday.” Jordan Swing also commented about the game that was, “We were tired but I don’t want to make excuses and we failed to make plays. They played well when they had to and we have to learn and get better.”
3) They say the NBA Season really gets underway on Christmas as the league featured five games on the day. We also had our Christmas day basketball action and the players gave their thoughts on playing on December 25th, “Growing up I always watched the Christmas games on TV,” said Swing. “So it was a pretty cool experience to now do so myself. There was a great atmosphere in the stands and the fans were great.” Feldeine also spoke about playing on the 25th, “It was fun to play and win on Christmas. We didn’t talk about it much as a team beforehand and we celebrated the night before. But all in all it was fun to play on this day in Israel.” J’Covan Brown who earned MVP honors spoke about Christmas as well, “This is my second or third time playing on Christmas and it was fun, but I wish I was with my family at home. However, this was great to be with my other family here.” Last but not least Goodes discussed playing like the NBA, “It’s a big happening and it’s a blessing to play basketball every single day.” AMEN!
Veteran marksman Jordan Swing is an asset to not only Maccabi Rishon Le’Zion but to Israeli basketball. Last season his arrival was something that had fallen out of the heavens for Hapoel Beer Sheva and he performed extremely well under Rami Hadar scoring 15.3 points, grabbing 5.6 rebounds and dishing out 3.3 assists while shooting 37% from beyond the arc. This season with Rishon, Swing not only played in the Israeli league but also in the EuroCup as well which is something he had done in the past with Zaragoza. This season his stats are a shade down but his 3 point % is up to 42% while leading by example game in and game out. “I’m feeling good and I’m finding my rhythm. I wasn’t playing as well as I knew I could at the start of the season so I told myself I needed to be more aggressive.” Swing is a key player on this team and is the glue that holds it together. Hopefully he will continue is fine play as we enter the new year.
Darryl Monroe played his first Israeli league game since November 2nd when Rishon tipped off against Ashdod and although he played only two minutes, it was great to see him back in action. Rishon will be a much better team with Monroe on the court and there’s no question that Guy Goodes will be able to use his expertise on the floor, “Monroe had just one serious practice session with contact and we wanted to throw him in for a couple of minutes and get his feet wet again.” Swing was also happy to see his teammate back in action, “It was good to see him out there and he’s feeling better.”
As for James Kelly, it certainly looks like he was a gift from above especially after Jonathan Williams departed for the NBA. The former Gilboa/Galil player had been without a team until he signed with Rishon as a replacement while Monroe was out, but now it looks like he will be with the team for the balance of the season although nothing is finalized yet said Goodes, “Kelly finishes his contract and Saturday but it’s like he fell from the heavens.” Kelly averaged 15.2 ppg and 7.9 rpg last campaign and there is no reason to think the EuroCup Round 10 MVP won’t continue to produce and help this team on their waiy.
Hapoel Jerusalem finally signed a player to replace Trent Lockett. Swingman John Holland has many years of experience with stints in Europe and the NBA and should be a welcome addition to the club. After recent time in the Phillipines, Puerto Rico and the G-League, the former Cleveland Cavalier and Boston Celtic will fill a much needed hole. Holand has also played in the EuroCup featuring for Besiktas, Sevilla and Gravelines between 2011-2015 where he averaged 11.1ppg while in the G-League Holland put down 18.1ppg. Coach Oded Katash and GM Guy Harel needed to make a move and they finally did as their European campaign needs to be reenergized after losing three straight road games with the next one coming up on January 7th in Germany against a young but dangerous Rasta Vechta team.