Hapoel Jerusalem defeated Hapoel Haifa 88-68 as Yovel Zoosman notched his career high in points with 24 to help his squad to the win. The capital city reds came out flying on all cylinders from long distance as Zoosman got off to a hot start with a trio of triples to set the tone for the hosts as the grabbed a 10-point lead after the opening frame and never looked back to take the victory.
Zoosman dropped 24 points, Levi Randolph added 15 points, Chris Johnson and Zach Hankins each scored 13 points while Speedy Smith scored 10 points, added 11 assists and grabbed 7 rebounds in the win.
“It was a positive game from us on the defensive end,” coach Shai Olerarczyk said. “That has been our identity for the last two years and we got back to our basics and what anchor us. When our defense works then we are in the spot where we need to be.
As for the assistant being the acting head coach now and perhaps going forward he said, “It’s not just me, but Theo and the entire club. I may be there up front but we are together and with Yonatan Alon as well. We are all together in this. I’m an employee of the club for the last five years and I will do what they ask of me as I am part of the organization.
“We played a team that is in a totally different place than we are and we are still trying to find ourselves,” Hapoel Haifa coach Guy Goodes said. “It’s very hard for me to judge this game due to that reason. Jerusalem may play without an experienced head coach but they have played together for a couple of years with Speedy Smith running the show.”
“We are trying to find ourselves and it’s not simple as we are doing that on the move as we have seen imports coming in and then leaving for a second time now once for the war and then for a new coach, so it’s hard to move ahead. To some extent it’s two steps forward and one step back.”
Levi Randolph locked back at the victory, “It was a big game for us and we wanted to assert our identity and focus on the defensive end and continue to build and play the defense that we know how to play. Shai has been on us to do what we do and I think we did a good job on that.
As for the capabilities of the assistant coaches continuing in the role of head coaches going forward “Shai and T (Theo Giannakopoulos) are more than capable and they are two of the hardest working people in the organization. They work really hard and they are prepared for whatever comes along they way, they will continue to work and continue to get better. But whoever comes we want to be in the position to win. Right now we have T and Shai and that is what we are going to do. They trust us and we trust them.”
Amit Simhon also spoke about the game from his point of view, “I’m still not feeling100% since returning from injury but I’m improving game to game and just as Guy spoke about the team finding its identity we are trying to do that now. There have been a lot of changes due to the war and it’s not simple for anyone, from the player and coaches who are changing, chemistry is a real thing.”
The contest got off to a frantic pace as 3-pointers were the name of the game with Yovel Zoosman drilling home an early trio for Hapoel Jerusalem while Jon Davis and Mike McGuirl did the same as the score was all knotted up at 14-14 midway through the first quarter. Levi Randolph who missed last game dropped a pair from downtown, Smith went from deep as did Chris Johnson to give the hosts a 29-19 lead after ten minutes of play.
Oz Blayzer went from beyond the arc for a pair to begin the second quarter, McGuirl and Davis answered, Gaby Chachashvili put in points while Jackson Stormo did at the other end as well, McGuirl and Amit Simhon went from deep while the former scored a deuce but Jerusalem stayed in front 51-41 at halftime.
Zach Hankins and Smith began the third quarter with points, McGuirl hit a pair for Guy Goodes squad, Zoosman and Randolph added buckets, Johnson drained a corner 3-ball as Amit Gershon responded but Chachashvili scored to keep Jerusalem in the drivers seat with a 73-54 lead after thirty minutes of action.
Zoosman nailed a 3-pointer to lead off the fourth quarter, Davis answered at the other end with a pair of baskets, Hankins scored inside, McGuirl came back from deep but so did Zoosman and Johnson as they sealed the deal for the reds.