“There are things that are bigger than basketball” Zoosman + Hapoel Jerusalem notch first league win

Dec 16, 2023 | Holyland Hoops

Hapoel Jerusalem defeated Hapoel Galil Elyon 81-73 to pick up their first Israeli league win of the season. The Reds, playing their first home game of the season came out on fire as Levi Randolph, Or Cornelius and Oz Blayzer opened the scoring while Yovel Zoosman found the bottom of the basket as well to stymie James Feldeine and Lior Carreira to take the victory.

Hapoel Jerusalem fans – Photo credit: Yehuda Halickman

Aleksandar Dzikic’s squad had lost the first two games of the campaign when Hapoel Jerusalem did not have any of their imports with the team as well as the head coach himself as they remained in Serbia two weeks ago. However, this time around five of the foreigners along with the bench boss himself were back in the Holy Land as over 1,000 fans came out to see their heroes live and in action for the first time this season at the Jerusalem Arena.

Next up for the Reds is a trip back to Belgrade for their final Basketball Champions League group stage game against Benfica which will be their last continental clash for sometime as they have already clinched a place in the Top 16 Second Group Stage Round which begins in late January.

Levi Randolph – Photo credit: Yehuda Halickman

Randolph led the way with 19 points, Zoosman added 15 points and Cornelius scored 14 points in the win. Feldeine scored 17 points, Carreira chipped in with 16 points and Lotan Amsalem scored 15 points in the loss.

Aleksandar Dzikic – Photo credit: Yehuda Halickman

“We won which was most important and the second thing is that there were no injuries,” head coach Aleksandar Dzikic said. “I don’t like the fact that I’m not controlling what is going on with me and my team [due to the war]. We have to adapt and it’s not easy. I won’t give my personal opinion about this but we are going back to Belgrade and we have a BCL game now on Wednesday. People forgot how good some of the guys are and social media were killing some of our players with Israeli passports. I guess playing a bit better will keep those guys satisfied.”

Barak Peleg – Photo credit: Yehuda Halickman

“The depth and size decided this game,” Galil coach Barak Peleg said. “We are still trying to find our best to play together and we didn’t totally believe that we could win which is something that I am not happy about. We fought and batted but we needed to believe that we could win.”

Yovel Zoosman – Photo credit: Yehuda Halickman

Yovel Zoosman also spoke about the game and having to shuttle between Israel and Serbia, “It was special as it was the first time as a Hapoel Jerusalem player that I played here at the Arena. At the end of the game I saw the Dawi family in the stands whom we had gone to visit after Roy was killed in battle. This is much bigger than everything that we do, these things are much bigger than basketball.”

Yovel Zoosman – Photo credit: Yehuda Halickman

“It’s not easy [to go between Israel and Serbia] but we are playing basketball and I am trying to give the most I can during this time which is very challenging. Playing basketball is helping some people and this is my “shlichut” is to do what I can on and off of the court as there are people who are going through so much more than us.”

Oz Blayzer – Photo credit: Yehuda Halickman

Oz Blayzer had the hot hand to start the game off as he found points on the inside and from the outside while Zach Hankins also scored to give Hapoel Jerusalem a 13-7 lead midway through the first quarter. Lior Carreira and Yahel Peleg cut into the lead for Hapoel Galil Elyon, but Levi Randolph and Or Cornelius went from deep to give the hosts a 24-15 lead after ten minutes of play.

Or Cornelius – Photo credit: Yehuda Halickman

Yovel Zoosman scored from deep and then from the paint, Cornelius dialled up long distance, James Feldeine and Randolph traded triples while Omar Silverio did the same in his Galil debut but Zoosman with a fadeaway jumper at the halftime buzzer sent Aleksandar Dzikic’s squad into the lockerroom in front 41-34.

Levi Randolph – Photo credit: Yehuda Halickman

3-pointers continued to keep falling for both teams as Cornelius, Randolph and Chris Johnson went from deep for Jerusalem while Carreira and Feldeine did the same for Barak Peleg’s team but more points from Cornelius, Afek Amsalem and Gaby Chachashvili bumped the Reds lead up to 67-51 after thirty minutes of action. Zoosman went from beyond the arc for a pair of triples, Lotan Amsalem tried to keep the game close with points from the inside, outside and the free throw line, but baskets by Randolph closed the game out to give Jerusalem the win.

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