Randolph just wants to win as Jerusalem head to BCL Final 4

Apr 19, 2023 | Holyland Hoops

It was never close. In fact it was never going to anything other than a Hapoel Jerusalem win the minute they boarded their flight home last week after their game two loss at AEK Athens that saw fans attacked, players stunned and a red club with a resolve that was unbreakable and with one mission and goal in mind.

Advance to the Basketball Champions League Final Four at any cost.

And that’s what’s they did with an overwhelming 91-51 performance to humble their opponents.

Jerusalem made sure there was no doubt in anyone’s mind who was going to come out of the quarterfinal series with the ticket to the competition’s crown jewel event, one that can very well find itself being held in the Holy City in early May.

Levi Randolph – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

Levi Randolph who led the BCL in points last season has had other roles this year, but with the biggest game of the campaign to date made sure that everyone would remember that he could score and score bucket after bucket. So much so he led the reds with 25 points along with Khadeen Carrington who notched 15 points together with Siim Sander Vene who dropped 13 points in the blowout runway victory that was never in doubt.

Joining Jerusalem in the Final Four are ACB squads Malaga and Tenerife along with Bonn from Germany.

“We want to thank the fans for coming out to support us,” Randolph said after the game. “It was an amazing atmosphere and we’re looking forward to seeing more games like this for the rest of season. This win is a testament to my teammates and staff as we fought hard and came out with the victory.”

“We hope we can host the Final Four and we appreciate the support. We always want our home court to be like that, but we have to take care of business in between the lines and we did that, I wouldn’t want to go to war with anybody else.”

Levi Randolph – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

As for his 25 point showing, scoring the ball was something that Randolph was more than happy to do, but ultimately that was only a piece of the puzzle for the swingman, “It felt good and it’s been something that my teammates encouraged me to do when they told me to be aggressive from the start. But I came here to win basketball games and I’ll do whatever it takes to do that. Today was scoring, but next game it could be rebounds, it happened to be me today but it can be anybody. I just want to win.”

A sea of red that encompassed the Jerusalem Arena as the Hapoel crowd was deafening to get the game underway with brimstone and fire.

Levi Randolph had the hot hand early for Hapoel Jerusalem while Brynton Lemar went from deep for a pair of 3-pointers for AEK, but Mareks Mejeris knocked down two from downtown and Khadeen Carrington also dialled up long distance to put the hosts in front 18-7 after ten minutes of play.

Zach Hankins and Khadeen Carrington – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

There had been plenty of off the court activity prior to the game as most of the talk ahead of the contest hovered around the off court incidents by the AEK fans in Greece during game two of the quarterfinal series which resulted in a heavy Jerusalem defeat setting up the do or die third game.

The Basketball Champions League handed down a harsh penalty which will see the Greek club play every continental clash behind closed doors next season as well as a 50,000 Euro penalty. Jerusalem was issued a minor fine of 3,500 Euros for their fan’s extracurricular activities.

Lemar and Vladimir Jankovic scored for Ilias Kantzouris’s squad to begin the second quarter, Zach Hankins came back with a pair in the paint, Siim Sander Vene also found points from deep Randolph dunked while Speedy Smith went from the inside and the outside give Aleksandar Dzikic’s team a 43-22 lead at halftime.

Matan Adelson (c) – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

Plenty of celebrities and politicians graced the court side seats and made their way to the VIP room during the quarter hour break in action as the likes of Chef Asaf Granit, comedian Hanoch Daum, musician Evyatar Banay along with current Jerusalem owner Eyal Homsky, the previous owner Ori Allon and the future owner Matan Adelson. Add into the mix the mayor of Jerusalem Moshe Lion, current Sports and Culture MK Miki Zohar and his predecessor Hili Trooper and the reds attracted the who’s who of Israeli society.

Carrington began the third quarter with points, Akil Mitchell added a deuce of his own as did Lemar and Jankovic to try and get the visitors back into the game but Randolph kept finding the bucket and Vene added a basket to give Jerusalem a commanding 59-36 advantage heading into the final frame.

The crescendo of noise increased with each break in play and with each timeout as the AEK bench was inundated by fans screaming, yelling and taunting at the highest pitches known to mankind. Israeli flags of all sizes, large and small were seen throughout the arena as the antisemitic incidents from last week would not be forgotten.

Vene and Carrington led off the fourth quarter with triples, Mitchell put in a layup to try and stem the ride but Randolph came back with yet more points, Brandon Brown scored his first bucket of the game, Vene found nothing but net while even youngster Noam Yaacov solved and diced his way through the AEK porous defense to notch two win.

Levi Randolph – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

But it was Randolph who stole the show when he paraded around the court with an Israeli flag to the delight of all in attendance, “Everyone came to support us. This was a huge game and we represented the entire country. We wanted to give back to the fans and come out of here with the win.

And that’s what they did as the fans departed the arena in song and dance that lasted throughout the night.

In other European action, Hapoel Tel Aviv fell to Badalona 82-74 in a valiant effort to end their continental campaign in Spain. The Reds fell into a big hole early on in the game but battled to take a 70-69 lead late in the contest, but couldn’t hold on as the hosts took the win. J’Covan Brown scored 21 points while Jordan McRae added 17 points in the loss.

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