Lockett Dunk Sets Tone, Jerusalem Confidence, Maccabi’s Defensive Woes, Hunter on Outside Pressure & More! 3-Pointers + Analysis of Jerusalem’s 92-90 State Cup win over Maccabi

1) Got to give credit where credit is due as Hapoel Jerusalem took the bull by the horns and dropped Maccabi Tel Aviv in the Israel State Cup quarterfinal at Yad Eliyahu. The Reds showed no fear as they came back from a pair of European losses to take out the Yellow & Blue on the road. Trent Lockett who has been inconsistent offensively all season long put the hammer down early, literally as he posterized Othello Hunter with a mega dunk off the right block. This set the tone for the balance of the game as Jerusalem was able to dictate play throughout the 40 minutes and never allowed Maccabi to get into the game. “Obviously I can’t prepare a dunk like that and when it comes it gives our team good energy,” explained Lockett. “It set a tone for us and helped the curb the momentum throughout the game.” Coach Oded Katash also commented about the monster jam, “It reminded me of a dunk that he had earlier in the week in practice on Nimrod Levi. Trent was terrific and he played a great game.”

Dov Halickman Photography

2) Katash also revealed that after the club’s second European loss in a row in Burgos, General Manager Guy Harel went into the lockerroom and spoke to the players reminding them that they are a good team and that they have plenty of quality. “It gave them confidence and it translated here.” Suleiman Briamoh also talked about Harel’s words, “The season has ebbs and flows so we’re trying to keep it at the same level. If we keep a cool head the best will come out.” Tashawn Thomas who almost recorded a double double also chimed in on Harel’s influence in Spain, “It definitely helped us and it was key for them to let us know that they still believe in you despite losing a couple of games in the Champions League. It encourages you to go out and play hard again.”

Dov Halickman Photography

3) Maccabi Tel Aviv looked out of sync all night and it seemed that they were still stuck in the second half in Barcelona. The Yellow & Blue never dictated play and were lackadaisical on defense other than the third quarter when they came out on fire after a halftime talk by Coach Ioannis Sfairpolous. “We lost one of our goals today because we didn’t play the game the way we wanted to play. The proof for this was the good defense we played in the third quarter. We spoke about this at halftime but at the end when you allow the other team to score inside, outside and in transition you can lose. We have to play better defense and if we do this we will return to positive results.” Captain John Dibartolomeo also spoke about the defensive woes, “We didn’t dictate on the defensive end and that’s what creates our offense.”

Dov Halickman Photography

Coach Sfairopoulos also looked at the fact that Maccabi had a string of tough Euroleague games before facing Jerusalem in the Cup and that made for a difficult transition, but in reality that is a lame excuse. The Reds also had to travel to Spain and play in Burgos and while the intensity of their games are less than that of Maccabi, the Yellow & Blue should have been much more aware of the importance of the game. It seems that the lesson from last year’s loss to Maccabi Rishon Le’Zion in the State Cup quarterfinals haven’t been learned. “Euroleague away in Milano and Barcelona are both teams that have quality rosters and it’s hard to stop them. When you play in the Euroleague you don’t play in the same conditions and they aren’t Israeli league type games. We had our third game in a week and we missed power and defense in this one. This is not an excuse but this is what we face. But when we have a shorter roster more players are fatigued. But the reason we weren’t focused and concentrated energy wise we weren’t able to play the defense that we want.” Othello Hunter didn’t believe that the shorter roster played a factor in the loss, “If a guy gets hurt, we have guys that can step up and I think we kind of did that tonight.” Dibartolomeo who looked devastated in the press conference said that the club knew how crucial this contest was, “We knew how important this game was and the importance of the Cup as it takes on another meaning. We came up short and we can’t hang our heads. We have to get back to our winning ways.”

Dov Halickman Photography

Othello Hunter offered some interesting nuggets especially when he was talking about “outside pressure”, “We’re not executing like we used to. But we also lost having fun. We play basketball to have fun and enjoy the game and I don’t think we’re enjoying it. Not just because we are losing but outside pressure and some guys got pressure, the fans and everyone wants to win. But you don’t win everything. We just got to get back to having fun.” I would like to understand what “Outside Pressure” really is and what was meant by that…

Dov Halickman Photography

The absence of Omri Casspi is glaring and he is missed by Maccabi. His impact on the game is tremendous and without him, the Yellow & Blue are really without a driving force. Dibartolomeo spoke about his absence, “He’s important and missing him hurts. We have a deep team and it’s part of sports, but we can’t miss a beat while he’s out.” Another player who was out was center Tarik Black who is suffering from some kind of foot pain as per a source at Maccabi. After playing an uninspired under ten minutes against Barcelona, Black just doesn’t look like the same dominant player that we remember from less than a month ago. Finally, Elijah Bryant wasn’t registered for the game and after the contest he was seen walking in an air cast. I asked Coach Sfairpolous in the press conference if he was hurt to which he said no. True he wasn’t when the teams had to register the players, however, a few hours before the game in practice with Sandy Cohen III and Angelo Caloiaro he injured himself according to a source at the club.

Dov Halickman Photography

They Said It…
Tashawn Thomas – “Knowing that if we didn’t come ready to play it was going to be an ugly game like last time.”

Su Braimoh – “That’s very important and we have to keep our spirits high. It’s a long season and it’s only November. We have the Champions League, WINNER League and the State Cup but we can never get too high or get too low. You lose a couple in a row and you keep your spirits up.”

James Feldeine – “It’s always tough playing against Maccabi Tel Aviv. But we stayed together and last game here gave us some learning experiences, we didn’t stay down and we made some big shots.”

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