Hapoel Jerusalem defeated Nahariya 92-89 in a thriller to win the the 60th edition of the Israel Basketball State Cup Final at Yad Eliyahu in Tel Aviv. The Reds captured the title in back to back years and have returned the Cup to the capital city for the sixth time in club history.
The Jerusalem duo of J’Covan Brown and James Feldeine kept the Oded Katash’s squad in front for almost the full 40 minutes. But a game Nahariya fought tooth and nail and were in position to take the lead with under 12 seconds left in regulation, however, Jerel McNeal missed a wide open 3-pointer as the Reds added the second title of the season to their trophy cabinet.
J’Covan Brown led Jerusalem with 26 points while James Feldeine added 23 points as Dominic Waters was the high scorer for Nahariya with 26 points as Jerel McNeal added 20 points.
President Reuven Rivlin and Minister of Culture and Sport Miri Regev presented the trophy to coach Oded Katash’s team in a stirring ceremony following the contest as close to 10,000 Jerusalem fans celebrated into the night.
Nahariya began the game with a fast break led by Jerel McNeal who dished the ball off to Egor Koulechov for the easy layup but John Holland came right back with a corner triple for Jerusalem in the early goings. Italy Segev scored a trio of baskets above the rim for Danny Franco’s team but James Feldeine lined up from long distance for the Reds as the game was deadlocked at 8-8 midway through the first quarter.
McNeal and Feldeine traded triples and Koulechov for Nahariya scored one as well, but J’Covan Brown hit a pair of 3-pointers and Nimrod Levi added another from beyond the arc. Diamon Simpson drained two free throws from the charity stripe as the teams combined for eight three pointers in the frame with the Reds taking a slim 25-22 lead after ten minutes of action.
However, the contest wouldn’t remain close for long as Brown continued his hot shooting with a jumper, another pair of triples from way, way downtown and a layup as Jerusalem broke away with an 11-point 35-24 advantage and 6:31 left in the second quarter.
Nahariya regained their composure and went on an 10-0 run as Waters hit from long distance once again out of the timeout and added an ankle breaker triple over Holland. The Portland State product then fed Gaffney for an easy post up jumper and scored another basket from deep to keep Nahariya in the game down by only a pair of points, 45-43 at halftime.
Segev and McNeal opened the second half with a pair of points and Waters scored another 3-pointer to bring his game total to 19 points as Nahariya grabbed a 50-47 lead early on in the third quarter. Tashawn Thomas and Tamir Blatt came back with points for Jerusalem but Nahariya stayed in front 58-54 with a basket by Segev, and reverse layup from Koulechov.
But Brown and Jerusalem didn’t let the deficit get him down as the University of Texas guard hit a circus act 3-pointer, Feldeine put in a step back jumper and Levi scored a corner triple to hand the Reds a 66-58 advantage. However, Waters came back to score an elbow triple and Simpson dropped free throws but Feldeine came back with five points to bump up their lead to 71-65 after thirty minutes.
Both squads came into the fourth quarter playing sloppy basketball but Feldeine broke through with a triple and Thomas’s slam dunk gave Jerusalem a 77-68 lead with 5:39 left in the final frame. But Nahariya wouldn’t go away easy as McNeal nailed a 3-pointer just as the shot clock expired and Segev added a pair of points to keep the Northeners hanging around.
With the score 88-86 for the Reds, McNeal had the chance to give Danny Franco’s squad the lead with 11.5 seconds left in the final frame on a picture perfect triple, but his shot came up short. Feldeine drained two free throws, but Gaffney came right back to drill home a fade away 3-pointer to cut the advantage to 90-89 in favor of Jerusalem as time wound down on the clock.
Waters fouled Blatt, but the Israeli guard missed both free throws. However, Thomas put back the rebound to secure the 92-89 win as time ran out for any more Nahariya miracles and Jerusalem captured the State Cup for the second straight season.