Hapoel Jerusalem have a lot to be proud about despite falling to Telekom Baskets Bonn 77-70 in the Basketball Champions League title game. Levi Randolph put in an incredible performance with 27 points but the league MVP TJ Shorts stood very tall by besting him with 29 points to take the victory.
The over 4,000 Jerusalem fans that accompanied the team to Spain, including roughly 1,000 supporters that flew the day of the game, gave it their all for their team that came up just shy of European glory.
While there was obvious disappointment in the air after the final, Jerusalem has plenty to look forward to as the Israeli season heads into the playoffs as Dzikic’s team will look to complete a double after capturing the Israel State Cup earlier in the season.
The Reds no doubt had an unforgettable European campaign as they came within a hair short of capturing their second ever continental championship. Aleksandar Dzkic’s squad fought hard, gave it their all but just didn’t have enough to take down arguably the best team in the competition.
“It was a tough one for us today,” Randolph began. “We knew they were a good team and we had a rough first half. They were better and I am proud of my guys, coach and coaching staff. We had a great season and came up short one game, but I am proud of my guys.”
Jerusalem entered the championship matchup after taking down the defending title holders Tenerife 69-68 in the first semifinal of the Final Four that took place in Malaga in what was a very emotionally charged game.
Perhaps Jerusalem and its brass looked at this game as kind of a final in some aspects because of Tenerife’s strength within the Spanish ACB League where they sit in fourth place. With their powerful and talented roster, one that could rival many Euroleague teams, Dzikic knew that this was going to be a tough matchup from A to Z and one that would take much out of his team.
Khadeen Carrington, Brandon Brown and Siim Sander-Vene were critical in the victory that saw energy and emotions flood out of the Reds which perhaps caused them to peak just a bit to early with one more game to go.
But as they say, hindsight is 20/20 and with that in mind Jerusalem went into the final with the absolute goal of winning it all. Did they come up on the wrong end of the stick? Yes. Can they be proud as to how they performed in Europe all season long? That is a resounding yes as well.
Interesting enough the players that caused most of the issues for Jerusalem were those who were short in height but very tall in basketball abilities. JDA Dijon had given problems to Jerusalem with David Holston who stands at 5”7 and in the finals, TJ Shorts who is just 5”9.
For some reason, the Reds had oodles of problems with both of these players whether it was their deft ability to get to the basket or how they were able to thread a pass to the open man and cause havoc on the offensive end.
How does Shorts do it?
“Obviously I’m asked that question a lot being a smaller player, and the message is the same, it sounds cliche but – if there’s something that you wanna do, and you put your mind to it, and you put a 100 percent into what you want to do, you can achieve anything.”
“You just put in work, after work, after work. Eventually, if you put a 100 percent into what you want to do, it will unfold for you and you’ll be able to have the world at your fingertips. And it goes for anything. Obviously, here the setting is basketball, but if you wanna become an engineer, if you wanna become a soccer player, whatever it is, if you put your mind to it, you can do it.”
While the wounds are still open, Jerusalem will need to take a day or two to put the BCL behind them and then get ready in earnest for their best-of-five quarterfinal series against last year’s finalist Bnei Herzliya. Oren Aharoni’s team will be charged up and rested as they will want to try to prove a point that last season’s success was no fluke.
Eyal Homsky, part of the Jerusalem ownership group also understands that while everyone is proud of the Reds’s accomplishments, there is still an entire playoffs to go with the league title hanging in the balance.
“We got to the final, we lost and now we have to lift ourselves up and get ready for the playoffs. We don’t have time to cry. The fans did an amazing job and what happened with the coach, we brought much pride to this club. I am proud of the players, fans, coach, staff and everyone deserves credit.”
There’s no question that Jerusalem will need to switch gears very quickly as they will not want to come into a postseason clash still down in the dumps after a tough and emotionally draining Final Four. Many of the players if not all of them are still most probably licking their wounds after the devastating defeat.
However, they will need to be on the ball so to speak in more ways than one as their head coach and leader will not be with them as he heads back to his homeland of Serbia for the funeral of his mother. Dzikic also experienced a wave of emotions the entire week leading up to the Final Four and his absence will be notable without a question.
Will Jerusalem be able to pick up the shattered pieces very quickly and make a deep run in the Israeli league playoffs? Can they brush aside this loss in fine fashion as fast as possible and refocus on the matter at hand?
Randolph took one of Dzikic’s adages as they now move ahead to the next stop on their journey, “Like coach says one game doesn’t define our season.”