Kiryat Ata silences Hapoel Tel Aviv to take 1-0 shock semifinals series lead

Kiryat Ata shocked Hapoel Tel Aviv 82-79 with a 10-0 run to end the game and steal home court advantage in their best-of-3 semifinal series to move to within just one in from the final. The reds opened up strong with a 9-0 run thanks to Kyle Alexander, Tyler Ennis and John Holland, but the visitors came right back with a 15-2 run of their own as James Batemon, Amin Stevens and Guy Palatin all scored to end the first quarter with a 24-22 lead.

Xavier Munford – Photo credit: Yehuda Halickman

Xavier Munford started to heat up for Stefanos Dedas’s squad in quarters two and three but Stevens, Ben Saraf and Akia Pruitt found points to stay ahead 62-60 after thirty minutes of action. Jaylen Hoard began to make an impact while Ennis hit some big shots to help his team to a 79-72 lead with under two minutes to play. However, a pair of 3-point plays from Raz Adam along with free throws from Batemon wrapped up the comeback win.

Amin Stevens – Photo credit: Yehuda Halickman

Stevens scored 23 points, Batemon added 13 points, Saraf scored 12 points and Palatin chipped in with 11 points in the win. Ennis scored 22 points, Hoard added 13 points and Munford scored 11 points in the loss.

Sharon Avrahami – Photo credit: Yehuda Halickman

“It’s not fun to go down 9-0 at their arena” Kiryat Ata Head Coach Sharon Avrahami began. “We were of course concerned but we came right back, we controlled the lane of the game for the most part and we took them to the places we wanted to and for Ennis to keep shooting that’s exactly what we want to see. JJ helped us a ton as a four and led us to that 10-0 run to end the game. We have to come in to the next game and defend better than we did in this game if we want to have a chance to win. We have to be humble and do our great job on our home court and play our game if we want to win the game.”

Stefanos Dedas – Photo credit: Yehuda Halickman

“The way we lost the game was naive giving up a 7-point lead with two and-1’s,” Hapoel Tel Aviv Head Coach Stefanos Dedas said. “We had a chance to win or tie the game but the luck wasn’t with us. The game had a lot of ups and downs but we took the lead again and the momentum changed a number of times and the team that had less pressure won the game. I have no complaints about the effort but I’m worried a bit that all of them were a little nervous and stressed.”

Amin Stevens – Photo credit: Yehuda Halickman

The game MVP Amin Stevens spoke about the victory, “We got some easy fast break buckets at the end of the game to help us to the win but it was our mindset and we kept believing the whole time. We stayed together and we pulled out the game. It’s all about believing in ourselves and none of us are worried about the fans, the last series proved we are able to play at this level.”

Jaylen Hoard – Photo credit: Yehuda Halickman

Jaylen Hoard reflected on the surprising defeat, “A lot of things didn’t go in our favor, we started well but then they went into a zone defense. We were ahead and we ended up losing. I can’t even tell you what happened, but we now have to get ready for the next game. Amin Stevens is a great player and we tried to play different defenses on him. We did some different plays after I had a scoring run and I tried to do what was asked if me. We could have done more as a team, but I have to watch the film and see. I feel like we can’t look at all of the games in the past as they aren’t relevant. We have to look ahead.”

Kyle Alexander scored while, Tyler Ennis scored on the outside and inside and John Holland hit a midrange jumper to give Hapoel Tel Aviv a quick 9-0 lead but JJ Kaplan went from deep, Guy Palatin put in a layup and James Batemon went from downtown to cut down the advantage to 9-8 midway through the first quarter. Batemon dialled up long distance, Amin Stevens found points, Ennis responded, Raz Adam went from beyond the arc, Batemon drove to the hoop for a deuce, Ben Saraf stole the ball and went in for a dunk, Bar Timor scored at the other end, Xavier Munford put in a 3-point play and Dusty Hannahs scored a layup but Kiryat Ata ended the period up 24-22.

Ben Saraf – Photo credit: Yehuda Halickman

Holland dialled up long distance to begin the second quarter, Stevens came back with a deuce, Saraf did the same, Akia Pruitt and Palatin each put in points while Holland drilled home a corner 3-ball, but Kiryat Ata continued to lead 32-28 with five minutes left in the half. Saraf and Munford traded baskets, Stevens put in a 3-point play, Munford and Ginat scored but Palatin came back from deep to keep Sharon Avrahami’s team ahead 44-40 at halftime.

JJ Kaplan – Photo credit: Yehuda Halickman

Kaplan with a gorgeous reverse layup got the third quarter underway, Alexander, Ginat, Ennis and Munford all came back with points, Saraf scored a layup off a break, Stevens dunked, Ennis responded to knot the game all up at 50-50 midway through the frame. Ennis drilled home a triple, Saraf answered with a long two, Ennis came back with another one from deep, Pruitt responded, Saraf went off the glass while Jaylen Hoard dunked to keep Stefanos Dedas’s squad close but down 62-60 after thirty minutes of action.

Guy Palatin – Photo credit: Yehuda Halickman

Hoard jammed and scored a 3-point play to begin the fourth quarter, Kaplan scored another reverse layup, Dusty Hannahs answered right back, Hoard put in another 3-point play and Stevens scored an easy basket inside but the Reds grabbed a 70-66 lead with five minutes remaining in regulation time. Timor drilled home a triple, Stevens and Palatin answered inside, Timor powered in a layup, Stevens scored another deuce, Ennis went from deep, Raz Adam scored a deuce and a 3-point play to give Kiryat Ata a 80-79 lead with 14.2 seconds left. Holland missed a shot from deep, Batemon hit his free throws and Munford missed a last gasp effort as Kiryat Ata stunned Hapoel Tel Aviv.

Guy Palatin – Photo credit: Yehuda Halickman

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