Hapoel Jerusalem defeated Hapoel Holon 91-84 to move their record to 10-1 in Israel Winner League play. The Reds were in control for the majority of the matchup, but Holon showed their new coach Stefanos Dedas that he has something to work with and that they could compete with the second place squad with quality runs in the second and third quarters. However, Oded Katash’s crew although playing with a short rotation showed their quality and were able to withstand the Holon pressure to record the victory.
Suleiman Braimoh led the way for the Reds with 25 points, 10 rebounds and 3 steals, James Feldeine added 20 points while Tashawn Thomas dropped 16 points and grabbed 11 boards in the win. Marcus Foster and Troy Caupain each scored 23 points and TJ Cline chipped in with 15 points in the loss.
James Feldeine scored 11 points early to give Jerusalem a quick 20-9 lead midway through the first quarter. Marcus Foster supplied the offense for Holon but Nimrod Levi and Tashawn Thomas also found the basket for the Reds as they took a 26-20 advantage after ten minutes of play.
However, Holon came out on fire to start the second quarter as Ryan Thompson, Foster and Troy Caupain helped the visitors take a 35-32 lead with six minutes remaining in the half. Caupain continued to find the bottom of the basket but a J’Covan Brown jumper and Suleiman Braimoh triple pulled Oded Katash’s squad to within 3-points 42-39 while Thomas free throws and a pair of layups and another Braimoh 3-pointer gave the hosts a 51-44 lead at halftime.
Braimoh kept scoring but Thompson, TJ Cline and Angel Delgado countered for Holon to pull even at 60-60 midway through the third quarter. Feldeine hit a 3-pointer and a layup for the Reds while Bar Timor drilled a triple as well but Caupain and Foster kept Stefanos Dedas’s squad hanging around down 74-69 after thirty minutes.
Brown and Braimoh drained shots from beyond the arc to start the fourth quarter to give Jerusalem a 81-72 advantage with 5:26 left in regulation. Thompson and Foster tried to keep Holon in the game but points by Braimoh and Thomas from the charity stripe and a bucket by Feldeine wrapped up the 91-84 win for Jerusalem.
1) Hapoel Jerusalem played the game against Holon with a very, very short rotation, seven players in total in essence after just having to face Rishon Le’Zion this past Wednesday and with Hapoel Beer Sheva coming up on this Wednesday. That’s no easy task. Sure Holon isn’t the team that we have been used to seeing under Dan Shamir and have already jettisoned a coach and a number of players, but they are still dangerous especially with a new coach manning the sidelines which we will get to soon. But first let’s look at how the Reds fared according to James Feldeine, “We started off finally in a great position and strong. Me being able to make a few shots early got the team going and we played decent defense in the first five minutes. When we start games like that it gives us a lot of confidence. But it’s tough with the short roster. We played with seven rotation players but sometimes the coach wants it that way. JB struggled a little bit but he ended the game for us on a good note.” Tashawn Thomas who played for Holon a couple of years ago also chimed in, “We knew we had some guys on the bench but I feel that coach just trusted the seven regular rotation players to try and get the win today. It’s always tough playing a big rivalry game and I knew it wasn’t going to be a blowout and it would be close. There are still some guys on the team and staff of Holon so I still have some feelings but this year I’m not as amped up as last year but it’s still good to get the W today.” Finally Coach Katash also discussed playing without one of his key point guards in Tamir Blatt and what effect that had on the game, :We were missing Tamir and we felt it because he gives us a different flow but we didn’t have any issues on the court without him.”
2) Suleiman Braimoh had an excellent game for Jerusalem and looked like he turned it up a notch especially as the team was playing with the short roster. Su’s 3-point shooting had not been great up to this game after hitting almost 44% from beyond the arc last year. However, with a 3/8 night he raised his average ad picked up some of the offensive slack that the team was in need with a number of injuries and players being out, “I’m happy we won, they made an early run and we weathered the storm. We played a good team. I’m always happy to see them go in and I believe in the law of averages as well as I work hard in practice.” Coach Katash spoke about Braimoh’s shooting prowess as well and what he can bring to the table, “The way the team is built allows Braimoh to have a chance to shoot the ball and score with good percentages.”
3) The new man behind the Holon bench is Stefanos Dedas from Greece and he arrives in Israel after many, many years of coaching in Greece, Turkey and with the Slovenia National as both the head man and an assistant. He comes to Israel with one main project right mow which is to right the Holon ship and get the team back to playing quality basketball which anyone in the Israeli basketball world knows is what Holon should be doing. After an unsuccessful run with Sharon Drucker and a number of players both Israeli and foreigners, Dedas’s first job is to work on the mental side of the game and get the Holon players’ confidence back on track especially after a demoralizing defeat, “The last few days after the Haifa game the confidence and morale was down. Our fans and management were disappointed and I tried to explain that I will try to turn around the situation. Starting from today I’m satisfied with our spirit.
The preparation for the game had two parts. One was to lift the team up after the last loss and set up the team to steal the game. We came here to win the game and I’m satisfied with our effort offensively. We know Jerusalem has bigger size and we suffered in the paint from time to time. We have to come out strong with the support of our fans. I’m here and we have to learn to work with our backs to the wall.” How have the first few days been for the players? “We had a good two days of practice and we tried to put it together the best that we can,” said Caupain. “We had some positives and negatives and we will get back to work tomorrow.”
Dedas also spoke about the similarities that he sees between the Israeli league and the Turkish league and how he will look to work with the team going forward which was a very interesting take, “The Israeli league and Turkish league are very similar in that we try to find the best domestic players. I believe that we have very good domestic players that can help when the foreigners don’t play well. Management gave me the green light to look at the market but I believe in hard work and working to improve the players. When you are from the outside you are more focused on the job and I want to bring confidence and make the players smarter. When we get more confidence I want to force my players to do what they can do good.” Dedas makes an excellent point here and if you look at the Holon roster there are definitely some quality Israelis, whether it’s Rich Howell, TJ Cline, Yogev Ohayon, Guy Pnini and Shlomi Harush. Joe Alexander who also played with the club is on his way back to Holon and that is yet another high quality Israeli player. Dedas just released Amit Simhon who has struggled with Holon and he was snatched up by Beer Sheva but all in all Dedas has 5 quality Israelis at his disposal plus with foreigners like Troy Caupain, Ryan Thompson and Marcus Foster the coach has some material to work with. Lastly, when asked who the leader of the team is, Dedas knew right away who his most important player is; the 6th man. “The leader of the team is the fans, they stay forever with this team and they are the bosses and owners.”
A) Hapoel Jerusalem will get some relief this week when John Holland lands in Israel as he comes in place of Trent Lockett who is back in the United States tending to a personal issue. I asked various players if they knew Holland and what they thought he could bring to the table and this is what I got. Braimoh starts us off, “I met John two summers ago and he’s a cool guy and a really good guy. I think it will be good to have an extra body and everyone brings something different. The coaching staff will do a good job integrating him into the team.” Thomas also spoke about what an extra player will do for the club, “I don’t know him but I’m excited that he coming. I watched some of his highlights and I always do that when we bring in a new guy to the team. He’s a scorer and bigger which will give us some size. I feel that this is going to be a good pick up for us.”
B) Last but certainly not least is James Feldeine who is familiar with Holland for many years, in fact close to 20. “We just signed John Holland which is going to be big for us as we need another person. He’s going to help us. I played against him in high school and when I was with the Dominican Republic National Team and he was with the Puerto Rico National Team so we had a good rivalry. He’s from New York like me so I know him pretty well and have played against him when we were 14 or 15. We’re not really close but there is a good connection. It’s great that we could get a player like John. We were looking for players and everyday management came to me and asked me about another player. He’s going to help us as he can play the 3 and the 4, he’s big and athletic and can put the ball on the floor. He can score when he wants to.”