Jerusalem looks for BCL Final 8 berth, Cohen HaGadol, Harris return, Eilat & Gilboa begin to rise

Mar 14, 2023 | Holyland Hoops


Hapoel Jerusalem may have knocked off Hapoel Beer Sheva 84-74 but they now ready for a massive game coming up in Basketball Champions League action as they visit JDA Dijon and look to punch their ticket to the quarterfinals with a win. The Reds fell to Dijon at home which was the last time they lost a game having now gone 9 straight wins in a row since January.

That’s not too shabby. Can they beat Dijon? Yes. Will it be tough? Yes. But if they come in ready to go and not allow Gavin Ware to annihilate them as he did last game they should be fine.

Aleksandar Dzikic – Photo Credit: Yehuda Halickman

“The wins before have nothing to do with this game. It’s an important game for both teams and it’s do or die for both teams. We both want to go to the top 8, but in order to win there are some details that we have to take care of on offense,” head coach Aleksandar Dzikic explained.

One major factor in this game will be Speedy Smith who has sat out the past two domestic league clashes but put up 26 points against Holon last week to send the purples packing from the BCL. Is Smith 100% going into this game? Dzikic emphatically said he was.

“He’s 100%. Not playing with every foreigner in league play is something that I’ve never had in my career and after 6 months I’m adjusted better with that. Tonight was his turn, we had planned to have others sit but we looked at the schedule.”

Speedy Smith – Photo Credit: Yehuda Halickman

If there is an equal rotation of players sitting in league games, I’m not quite sure how Smith sat for two in a row if there isn’t some sort of issue, but we will take Dzikic’s word on Smith after he dropped 26 points on Holon.

However, with or without a 100% Smith, the Serbian bench boss now has a 100% Brandon Brown who has been playing superb basketball over the past few weeks and has shown exactly why the Reds brought him in as Dzikic also referred to the addition of TJ Cline to the squad as well.

TJ Cline – Photo Credit: Yehuda Halickman

“His [TJ Cline] situation is not easy. When he came we were in one situation and now it’s a bit different. Blayzer is playing better now but TJ is helping us by pushing them to play better while he can also be better but he needs time. When you compare Brown now and from when he arrived it’s a different way of performance and it also takes time to learn to play with each other. We have rules and we have to all be on the same page.”

The bottom line is that this will be a great game and Jerusalem fans will be looking forward to it as they want to see their team hoist yet another trophy this season.


Jake Cohen has always been a popular player with The Sports Rabbi as time and time again we never cease to find more and more adjectives and superlatives to describe the Maccabi Tel Aviv and Israel National Team veteran.

Cohen always seems to be there no matter what the situation is for his team. Whether it’s points, defense, leadership, guile and desire the Pennsylvania native will no doubt one day get his due as being one of the most important players for the Yellow & Blue in the past decade. He has been part of the club through thick a thin ion three separate terms as he tries to do what each and every one of his coach’s wants him to do.

Jake Cohen – Photo Credit: Yehuda Halickman

In a recent piece, we took a look at how important Cohen has been this season in Maccabi’s Euroleague success and how much his coaches and teammates respect and revere him.

This time around in a 91-84 win over Nes Ziona, Cohen scored 23 points and played a major factor in Maccabi’s comeback victory with points a plenty in the final frame.

“Jake brings a lot of intelligence and desire to the team,” Maccabi coach Oded Katash said following the game.

John Dibartolomeo and Jake Cohen – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

Captain John Dibartolomeo also spoke about Cohen, “I can’t say enough good things about Jake. I have played with him for five years and he is not just a good teammate but a close friend. I love his game and approach to the lockerroom and he has a big voice and a is a leader. I’m happy that he has gotten an opportunity and he seems to be seizing it and I expect that to continue.”


Hapoel Holon took it to Kiryat Ata 88-73 as Guy Goodes’s squad pulled away from the northerners early on and never looked back to take the win after having been knocked out of Basketball Champions League action last week when they fell to Hapoel Jerusalem.

So Holon was happy to get back into the win column for sure and they were also content to see CJ Harris who is working his way back from an injury he incurred in the preseason when he slipped on one of the stickers in the Hadera arena in Winner Cup play.

CJ Harris – Photo Credit: Yehuda Halickman

So far Harris is 9 domestic league games into his return and his statistics are good with 12.7 points a game to go along with 2.6 rebounds and 2.6 assists plus 50% from beyond the arc going 21/42 and plenty of teams would be pining for such a player. Of course, if you look at his numbers from his last term with the club a few years ago he was averaging 15 points per game and over 4.1 assists.

Except, one can also see that Harris is still working off that injury.

The guard is still a step slow, he’s tentative at times which is totally natural after coming out of a tough period of time away from the court.

The one thing that Harris does have is the right attitude and the desire, drive and will to make sure he can be the best version of himself that he can be. There aren’t many players and better people than CJ Harris out there; he a gem.

CJ Harris – Photo Credit: Yehuda Halickman

“I felt decent out there and it’s a process to getting back to myself,” Harris told The Sports Rabbi after the win. “There are going to be ups and downs but I’m lucky my teammates and coaches give me confidence and support. The mental side has a lot to do with my game as well. I am working on that and the more I put in the effort, the more it will click.”

Goodes also spoke about his guard and the process he is going through, “I can’t teach him anything about basketball. He has to deal with confidence and his legs and knees are a bit weaker due to the injury. He was thrown into the deep end once Erick Green left and he has helped us a lot. He battles himself and he wants to succeed very much and while his body stops him, his head wants it. We are looking for the right balance and I believe he will get there as he is getting stronger.”


Both Hapoel Eilat and Hapoel Gilboa Galil picked up crucial wins as they both fight for their Premier League lives and try to avoid relegation. Eilat sunk Hapoel Haifa 90-79 and Gilboa took out Bnei Herzliya 79-74 in a pair of entertaining games that will for sure give Israeli basketball fans the thirst of watching these relegation battles over the next couple of months.

For the Red Sea squad, Maurizio Buscaglia has now won two games in a row as we have seen quite the performance by Antonius Cleveland who was spectacular as well as Tony Carr for Ariel Beit Halachmi’s Galilee side who was no less stellar in their wins.

Certainly, there have been tons of import players who have come through the country’s borders this season, but these two are really, really exciting.

With that in mind, it also looks like Eilat has come together as a team and that Buscaglia has a properly set lineup of players who have certain roles who have accepted those roles as well.

Antonius Cleveland – Photo Credit:

“This was the best game since I arrived in Eilat,” Buscaglia said. “We were very disciplined on defense and that is what brought us the win. Everything is beginning to come together. Of course there still is a long way to go but I am optimistic going forward and we have to continue our momentum.”

No question that there is a long way to go for both teams and while Eilat might look a tad better, Gilboa still has plenty of work that they will need to do to find a way out of the basement.

With that in mind, Hapoel Haifa and Kiryat Ata who both only have 6 wins better watch out because if they don’t win a couple of more games they will soon find themselves in deep trouble.

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