Nes Ziona defeated Hapoel Tel Aviv 95-90 as a 17-0 run in the third quarter helped Nadav Zilberstein’s squad to the win. Big man Jeff Withey starred in the victory with 19 points, 15 rebounds and 7 blocked shots which was a league record while JP Tokoto added 22 points and 12 boards and Daequan Cook scored 21 points. Jordan Hamilton led the Reds with 25 points in the loss.
Jeff Withey has taken the Israeli league by storm this season. The big man has clocked in with superb numbers averaging a double double of 14.1 points and 10.8 rebounds to go along with 2.7 blocks in close to 30 minutes a game. Oh and by the way he got an efficiency rating of 24.5. Add to that his performance in the Europe League where the former NBA center averaged 14.9 points, 8.3 rebounds and 1.9 blocks and you can say, not bad, not bad at all.
Some thought that due to the Kansas product’s height, Withey wouldn’t be effective in the domestic league, but that couldn’t be further from the truth especially after his showing in the win over Hapoel Tel Aviv. At 7”0 Withey had absolutely no problem shredding the Reds defense in the paint, scoring at will and dunking over and over and over again. At the other end of the floor, Withey hosted a block party setting an Israeli record with seven of them. He was able to not only block a slew of shots but he altered one after another.
When the criticism came in at the start of the season Zilberstein lashed out and said that Withey deserved everyone’s respect for the NBA career he had and that with a little patience they would see how effective he would be. Now that’s the truth. He’s been spectacular and should be a consideration for the league’s MVP should he keep his fine play up.
With two more games left in the second round, Withey and Nes Tziona will try to put themselves in the best position to excel and move up in the standings as the playoffs beckon. The 39th pick in the 2013 NBA Draft was happy to get the win after the international break, “Having the break helped a bit to come back refreshed. I knew this team was going to come in and attack the paint and the first time we played I was able to get a couple of blocks. They just kept on attacking and attacking. I think in one possession I was able to get a couple so that definitely helped. I was just trying to be aggressive against them as I know they were trying to be aggressive against me. It just went my way.”
Withey continued, “Very fast paced game and a lot of turnovers, but I think that’s because we just got back and hadn’t played in a couple of weeks. Great win on our part and I’m proud of the team and proud of Eidan for coming in and stepping up. It was great to get a win after the break.”
Eidan Alber whom Withey mentioned, helped the Israel Under-20 squad win the European Championship this past summer as the youngster came in for an injured Raviv Limonad and Golan Gutt in the fourth quarter and scored 9 points while pulling down 3 rebounds after not playing minute up until the final frame.
Alber’s efforts impressed the veteran, “We really need him to step up these couple of months. He looked forward to this game and he performed really well. We see glimpses of it all the time in practice so I’m really glad and happy for him to come out and play the way he did in such a short time. It’s not easy as I’ve been in the situation before where you’re not playing a lot of minutes and then you get called. So for him to come in and play as he did, it’s big for our team.”
Coach Zilberstein also complimented Alber, “When I met him this summer I was very impressed with his character and he’s an example of how a player should handle themselves. I told him that he’s coming to a good team and there will be games that he won’t play and some where he will play more. He came into the game and made excellent decisions, attacked the basket, defended well and he’s always there when we need him.”
Nes Ziona who were without Tal Dunne due to suspension will get their captain back next game against Hapoel Beer Sheva while Raviv Limonad and Golan Gutt will probably be good to go. Along with Corey Fisher, Daequan Cook and newcomer JP Tokoto, Zilberstein has a squad that can compete with the best the league has to offer and no one should rule them out as they continue to strive to move up in the standings.
Hapoel Tel Aviv is still going through growing pains after adding Sek Henry this past week. Coach Ioannis Kastritis is still working his way through his team and trying to get them up to speed with how he expects them to play, “We have to build ourselves up and we have to improve in many aspects of our game.” Guard Joaquin Szuchman also some about the changes that the team is undergoing, “Since Ioannis arrived we have made some positive changes. Even though we lost the last couple of games, I feel that we are now Hapoel. We haven’t been able to translate them to wins but there’s no question that they will come. We’re killing ourselves before every game and we are preparing as best as we can and the professional staff have to be credited for that.”