1) Hapoel Jerusalem are Back to Back Israel State Cup Champions and boy what a game they got from Nahariya in an absolute thriller of a contest. J’Covan Brown sparked the Reds in the first half and played perfect compliment to James Feldeine. Brown, the University of Texas product scored a dozen second quarter points to put Jerusalem in the drivers seat but Dominic Waters topped him by scoring 13 points in the same frame. Jerel McNeal then went neck and neck with Feldeine over the second half all the way to the end of the game but the duo of Brown & Feldeine came out on top with 49 points compared to Waters and McNeal who ended the evening just shy with 46 points, for a difference of 3-points; the final score, 92-89 Hapoel Jerusalem by three. There can only be one MVP but in reality all four of these players deserved to reap the honor and respect of both sets of fans as well as their teammates and of course their coaches.
2) As mentioned before, the Most Valuable Player, J’Covan Brown was the spark that helped Jerusalem to the Cup and he’s been a gamer since day one. There’s no other player that coach Oded Katash would want in a big game like the State Cup Final as he’s said many times before. Brown began his Israeli career back in 2017/18 when he featured for Hapoel Gilboa Galil and almost singlehandedly took the Galilee team to the Final Four over Hapoel Jerusalem. That’s when Katash knew he needed a killer like Brown on his team. I guess that’s why he calls himself “MurderSeason”. Brown is cold blooded, unconscious and just nasty when he launches those triples from long distance going 4/7 while the team as a whole went 16/36 from deep.
3) The guard is a fun loving guy who leaves it all on the floor for his team and is the life of the party with his teammates, respected and honored by all those around him. When I first spoke with Brown at last year’s media day I didn’t know if he was going to be at Jerusalem for the long term, but boy was I wrong. Brown’s the heartbeat and life of the team as well as the party. A nicer guy you won’t meet and a more caring person for his teammate Trent Lockett whose mother recently passed away you won’t find. “He deserved it,” said Tashawn Thomas. “He’s been playing great basketball this year, I’m so happy for him as another guy from Texas it’s a big thing for me.” Suleiman Braimoh who won his first Israel State Cup also spoke intimately about Brown, “That’s JB man, he’s got a big heart and plays for the team, put his body on the line and himself on the line. Rain, sleet or snow we have his back and he has ours. That’s just a testament and a microcosm of who he is and the great abilities he has.“ However, the real secret to J’Covan’s success is explained eloquently was coach Oded Katash, “JB is also one who works off the court and who came into the season in great shape. I can see a huge difference. JB is very special and he took himself to another level and has been so serious off the court.”
Nahariya was tough. Tougher than what Jerusalem thought? Not so according to Thomas, “We knew that Nahariya was a good team and it was going to be a tough game. We somewhat thought we could pull away when we got a big lead but they went on a run and it was kind of expected as basketball is a game of runs. Our team stayed together and got the job done.” Braimoh also commented on how they got the job done, “We accomplished what we set out to do by hook or crook. It doesn’t matter how we got it done but we got it done and that’s what matters. Perseverance and a lot of heart. Mental toughness. Fourth quarter your legs are tired and your scrapping and clawing. It came down to who wanted it more and we made one more play than they did and we came out with the win.” Finally Feldeine was happy that the Reds came out on top, “When we went on that run in the fourth and I hit the corner three and we took a big lead. They came back and I tipped my hat off to them, they had a great game but I’m balky we won.”
Can Jerusalem win two more titles this season? That’s the big question. Last season after the Reds won the State Cup they thought that they were on their way to winning the Champions League and the Israeli league title, but came up short. Will that change? As they say, time will tell. The Champions League playoffs are around the corner and another date with Tenerife in the quarterfinals is a possibility while Maccabi Tel Aviv will be waiting domestically. “We will enjoy this but the work is far from done,” said Braimoh. “We will get back to the drawing board and get it done. It’s one day at a time, we won the cup and we will enjoy it now, but tomorrow is back to the grind.” Feldeine also knows that they’ve got to get back to work as there are still bigger fish to fry, “We will celebrate tonight and we have bigger ones that hopefully will come our way.” Last but not least, Oded Katash had this to say, “We can have a great season but we have some big tests still to come in the Champions League.”