Hapoel Jerusalem got back onto the winning track with a 76-70 victory over Nes Ziona in the capital city. The reds started off slow as the visitors who were paced by Isaiah Whitehead and George King held the lead for the majority of the game. However, Ilias Kantzouris’s squad saw JaCorey Williams and Levi Randolph take control of the final frame to help the hosts to the win.
Williams lead the way with 21 points, Randolph added 16 points and Chris Johnson scored 12 points in the win. King scored 18 points and Isaiah Whitehead added 13 points in the loss.
The game MVP JaCorey Williams looked back at the win, “It was a good hard fought win after we had two losses. In the first half our defense was a step behind, they were scoring and getting whatever they wanted on offense. In the second half we were way more aggressive on defense which turned into offense and we got rolling from there.”
The forward also spoke about what his feelings were when he joined the Reds midway through the season, “I was a little skeptical as they already had their core but I know that as a person and a player I’m an energy guy. You can out me around a lot of guys and I can a play a role to perfection and I will play with the most energy that I can. When I play hard and focus on defense a lot of good things offensively just seem to happen. I know that I’ll bring the energy and let the rest speak for itself.”
Williams was thrilled to have the chance to play at home, It felt great to play at home and the fans were amazing. We traveled to every game since I have been here, it has been a a lot of flights and bus rides so it kind of felt good to relax at home and be in my own bed today before the game and lock in mentally, it was great.”
As for Friday’s Israeli Classico, Williams understands that it will not be an easy contest, “It will be a tough game against a good opponent and there is a rivalry between the fans. We want to come in and be efficient. We know how good Maccabi are, luckily we have the home court advantage.”
Jerusalem Head Coach Ilias Kantzouris shared his thoughts about his new recruit, “It says a lot about the team spirit. The other players embraced him and how they helped him adjust. I believe that he is a team player and when you are you will always find your space within a team that is working well. His teammates did a great job and those who play the same position in practice are working hard which makes everybody better.”
“I’ve been here before on the opposite side and it was good to be on the right side,” Coach Kantzouris continued. “The fans were great and I expect that they will fill the arena and be an extra player for us on Friday. We were bad defensively in the first half and gave them what they wanted, slow tempo and second chances. The second half defense was better but we can play even better. We have another important game on Friday and then we will continue on.”
“The first half went very well for us,” Nes Ziona coach Elad Hasin said. “They made some tough baskets but in the second half they made a run at the start of the third quarter and that gave them confidence. We are a bit short and we tired out as we went into the last quarter. Jerusalem was able to get their shots at the end of the game and we just didn’t as they also have the depth to be able to keep making substitutes.”
Isaiah Whitehead spoke about the game from his point of view, “We played good for three quarters and then let them get into a rhythm. It’s at tough place to play and I think we did a good job other than the last quarter. The way we started and then how we took the foot off the gas, you can’t have those moments.”
George King put in a 3-point play while Isaiah Whitehead knocked down a pair of triples to get Nes Ziona off and running Speedy Smith and Chris Johnson came back from deep for Hapoel Jerusalem, Itay Segev and JaCorey Williams traded baskets inside, Zuf Ben Moshe scored off the backboard and Brynton Lemar answered but the visitors held a 22-16 lead after ten minutes of play.
Williams scored a pair of baskets, King came back with a dunk and then went from long distance, Segev dunked, Williams scored another couple of buckets in the paint, Johnson went from beyond the arc, Whitehead scored a layup, Lemar and Whitehead traded baskets, but King hit a corner 3 to give Elad Hasin’s team a 42-32 advantage at halftime.
Jerome Meyinsse and Levi Randolph led off the third quarter with their first points of the game, Yovel Zoosman went from deep, Williams added yet another basket, Randolph put in a 3-point play and added a triple, Ben Moshe went from downtown and King scored as Nes Ziona stayed in front 52-51 after thirty minutes of action.
Or Cornelius scored to begin the fourth quarter, Ben Moshe knocked down a corner 3-ball at the end of the shot clock, Johnson and Gaby Chachashvili scored inside, Williams powered in points, Meyinsse hit his shot, Cornelius and Rawle Atkins traded triples as the score was knotted up at 65-65 with 3:30 remaining in regulation time. Randolph came in for a layup off a turnover, Williams put in a 3-point play and Randolph scored again to polish off the win.
In other Israeli league action, Hapoel Eilat picked up their 3rd win of the season as they sunk Kiryat Ata 83-75 as the Red Sea City squad under new head coach Jurica Golemac saw his team go on a late 15-0 run to record the victory. Deishuan Booker, Elijah Stewart and JuJuan Johnson all scored 18 points in the win while Amin Stevens with 23 points and James Batemon with 22 points paced the visitors.