“Magic” Eliyahu! Amare Comeback? Jerusalem downs Eilat 92-73

Hapoel Jerusalem defeated Hapoel Eilat 92-73 on Gameday 30 of the Israel Basketball Winner League without three of their main players in Jerome Dyson (eye injury), Rich Howell (ill) and Startos Perperologou (muscle strain). The Reds led all the way through with the visitor’s barely putting up a threat over the 40 minutes as veterans Lior Eliyahu (10p/15a) and Yotam Halperin (17p) stepped up to the plate along with Kalin Lucas who dropped 19 points. Amit Simhon scored 20 points while Jordan Loyd added 12 in the loss.

1) When Hapoel Jerusalem sent out a message to the media that Dyson, Howell and Perperologou wouldn’t be available for the game just a little over an hour prior to tip off the natural reaction would be that Eilat who had just beaten Maccabi will also take care of the Reds. However, my first reaction which I sent out to a fellow journalist was that Lior Eliyahu and Yotam Halperin had to step up, and step up they did helping lead the team to victory. Eliyahu dished out a career high 15(!) assists, scored 10 points, pulled down 5 boards and picked up 4 steals in the win, now that’s quite the game. Halperin was a perfect 10/10 from the field and handed out 5 assists as the two veterans combined for 20 of the 25 Jerusalem assists. Add into the mix Tarence Kinsey’s 16 points and 10 rebounds in close to 37 minutes and it was the perfect storm for the Reds. Coach Oded Katash commented about Eliyahu’s performance, “The veterans showed plenty of character and we played well. We played a team game and it’s hard for me to talk about Lior gaining confidence from this evening but maybe this is a turning point and we can take this game and continue to play fun and quality basketball.” Kalin Lucas compared him to one of the all-time great LA Lakers, “Lior was looking like Magic today and he was finding guys who were cutting, he played a great game.”

2) Hapoel Eilat played flat, very flat basketball in the loss to Jerusalem after beating Maccabi Tel Aviv earlier in the week. Could have that victory played a part in the defeat to the Reds? Katash wasn’t sure, “I don’t know, you’ll have to ask Drucker (Eilat Coach Sharon Drucker) In this league you never know what the results will be both at home and on the road.” Lucas was also unsure, “I’m not sure but I know that we came ready and we knew some guys weren’t going to be able to play so we had to step up.” Drucker himself said, “We spoke to the players about that and they are professionals that know what they have to do every match. But whatever we said didn’t happen.” Finally Jordan Loyd told me on Twitter, “A team can never get too high after a big win or too low after an embarrassing loss like tonight. We know what we have to do to bounce back.”

3) Is Amare Stoudemire looking to make a comeback with Hapoel Jerusalem? Who knows, it could happen. Reports indicate that he is in the process of obtaining Israeli citizenship and wouldn’t count against the current foreigner limit plus he told me with a smile during the 4th quarter of the game that it was great to be practicing with the team this week. After the game, “Stat” joined the squad at center court and was serenaded by the fans. Lucas would be happy to have the chance to play with him, “It felt good and at first I saw the crowd chant his name. When you have someone like that come watch you at court side you have to bring your A game. I watched him growing up especially in his Phoenix Suns days I know what type of player he is and I definitely would love to play with him if he comes out of retirement.” Katash also chimed in on the topic as well, “Amare was with us for two practices and he is such an amazing person. Not just that he’s a great player but he brings so much positive energy and personality. You can see how the fans adore him and he deserves it. I never thought that I’d have the opportunity to consider having him play with us but I wouldn’t discount the possibility of having a player like Amare.“

Jerusalem heads to Nahariya on Sunday and complacency can’t set in or else the result could be disastrous explains Lucas, “We don’t underestimate anybody. If you don’t come ready you’re going to lose. We have to get ready for Sunday and stick to the game plan.” Coach Katash echoed those sentiments, “We have to prepare properly to win that game.”

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