Pianigiani’s One Small Step: Jerusalem advances to the Final 4

Hapoel Jerusalem defeated Nahariya 71-60 to advance to the Israel Basketball League Final Four. The game 5 victory marked the Reds third win in a row coming back from an 0-2 deficit. Jerome Dyson scored 16 points while Travis Peterson scored a big 13 points in the win. Jonathan Sjkoldebrand dropped 14 points for Nahariya in the loss.

Jerome Dyson again was instrumental in getting Jerusalem off to a hot start as the guard scored 7 points to help the hosts to a 22-11 lead after ten minutes of action. But Nahariya came storming back thanks to favorable refereeing calls and took a 27-26 lead late in the first half. However, a Travis Peterson 3-pointer gave Jerusalem a 32-27 advantage at the break.

Tarence Kinsey and Lior Eliyahu paced the Jerusalem attack in the 3rd quarter as Bar Timor hit an off balance 3-pointer to end the frame as the hosts extended their lead to 54-45. With momentum on their side, Jerusalem sealed the deal in the final quarter thanks to Yotam Halperin’s veteran leadership and Peterson’s fine shooting to advance to the Final Four with a 71-60 win. The Reds will face Maccabi Rishon Le’Zion in the first of two semifinals on Monday night at 18:45.

Dov Halickman Photography

1) Jerome Dyson was the MVP of this series helping Jerusalem overcome an 0-2 deficit. Once the guard found his way into Simone Pianigiani’s Starting 5, he returned to being the player we had seen earlier in the season. Over the past few months Curtis Jerrells had really taken control of the team helping them into a top 4 spot. However, number 55 shared the wealth and Dyson was able to come up big, helping his team defeat Nahariya three times in a row to move onto the Final Four. Credit also has to go to Pianigiani who made the critical move of inserting Dyson into the starting lineup along with Richard Howell once Amare Stoudemire returned from injury. With one small step, Pianigiani perhaps was able to save the Israeli season as Dyson helped catapult Jerusalem into the semifinals.

2) Travis Peterson hit some clutch shots against Nahariya in Game 5 good for 13 points and always seemed to be in the right place at the right time during his 21 minutes of action. In games 1 & 2, Peterson was called upon to play part of the game at the number 5 position which didn’t allow him the same amount of freedom he had in the decisive game. I spoke to Travis after the stunning loss of game 1 and he spoke about not being aggressive enough on offensive and not getting enough stops. That certainly wasn’t the case in games 3 through 5 as he indicated that they turned up the aggressiveness and made sure to keep Nahariya below 70 points which most probably result in a win, which of course is what happened. One final thing about Peterson, he is a great guy. In Yiddish you’d call him a Mentsch. He is always accommodating, always willing to spend the extra minute with a fan or a journalist and conducts himself as a true professional. He is the definition of exactly what an athlete role model should be.

Dov Halickman Photography

3) The refereeing was absolutely atrocious as they dictated the pace of play whistling way to many traveling calls as well as other ticky tack fouls which allowed Nahariya to get back into the game during the second quarter. Arik Alfasi complained immediately after the game 4 loss about the poor officiating and it’s clear that it paid off. Why not complain when the punishment is to publicly apologize for the criticism with no threat of a fine. If I would have been in the same situation I would have done the same thing, I’ll take advantage any opportunity that can give my team an edge.

Nahariya had a great year and Arik Alfasi spoke about how proud he was of the staff and the players for the season that they had. Of course, losing a series that they were up 2 games to none in is devastating, but all in all Nahariya did a have a terrific season as they represented Israel honorably in Europe plus took Jerusalem to a 5th game in the quarterfinals. It might sting right now and it looks like Alfasi will be stepping down as coach of the northern team, but hopefully in time they will really understand the mark that they left on the 2016/17 season.

Hapoel Eilat 77-82 Maccabi Rishon Le’Zion
Charles Thomas scored 17 points and Patrick Richard dropped 16 points for the defending champs as Rishon advanced to the Final 4 after an 82-77 win on the road against Eilat. Reginald Buckner and Landon Milbourne each scored 16 points in the loss which featured Thomas and Buckner being ejected for some extracurricular acrivties on the court.

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