Hapoel Jerusalem defeated Maccabi Tel Aviv 82-81 in the Israeli Classico thanks to Stratos Perperologou’s 3-pointer to give the Reds their first win of the season over the Yellow & Blue. Jerome Dyson starred with 14 of his 24 points in the 4th quarter while Kalin Lucas scored 7 of his 12 points also in the final frame as Rich Howell pulled down 13 rebounds to go along with 8 points in the win. Alex Tyus was the leading scorer for Maccabi with 18 points as captain John DiBartolomeo added 13 points in his return from injury in the loss.
Maccabi dominated play in the first quarter thanks to an active Norris Cole with 6 points and a prefect Deshaun Thomas who scored 8 points to help the host’s to a 25-21 lead after ten minutes. Michael Roll (11p) and Deandre Kane (7p) were the keys for the Yellow & Blue in the second quarter as Maccabi extended their advantage at the half to 46-37.
The third quarter was more of the same for Neven Spahija’s squad as both Tyus and DiBartolomeo each dropped 8 points to give Maccabi what looked like an insurmountable lead 66-53. But Dyson helped bring Hapoel all the way back with an absolutely dominate final the minutes scoring 14 points at will to help the Reds to a 29-15 quarter and the one point 82-81 win for Oded Katash’s side.
1) The Prince has become the King. Oded Katash has molded his team into his likeness fairly quickly both on the court and off of it. Katash’s team is playing terrific basketball and has the confidence to come back from whatever situation that may be thrown at them. Whether it’s a 13-point deficit with 10 minutes to go, to trusting his players and showing confidence in them that they can perform while under pressure. Katash also knows how to give credit where credit is due and is never afraid to compliment his players as he did with not only Jerome Dyson but also Ram Elias-pour who put in 14 quality minutes, “Ram Elias-pour was here for us today and played with his body. He played in crunch time and he deserves this win more than anyone else on the team.” Now that’s a players coach, a coach that any player would go to war with as Katash is getting his soldiers in order, ready to go out into battle to defend their championship.
2) I don’t think we really understand what type of player we have here in Stratos Perperologou playing in Israel. He’s got to be one of the most under appreciated stars to ever set foot in the Holy Land. We have to remember we’re talking about a player who has won the Euroleagu not once, not twice but 3 times! Not only that, but he won it twice with Panathinaikos and once with Olympiakos after crossing the Athens divide and that’s not something simple to do. Oded Katash spoke about what it’s like having a player of Perperologou’s caliber, “Anyone covering basketball knows what Stratos has done as a player and I have to say that it’s such a joy to coach a player like this. He has personality and presence just the way he acts and operates and it’s not just by chance he made it to the levels that he did. It’s an honor for me to work with him.” The Greek forward is certainly thriving in Katash’s system as he seems to know exactly what buttons to push. Stratos spoke about scoring the winner and what it’s like playing for the Red’s boss, “It’s fun when you hit these kind of shots and that my coach and teammates have confidence in me, I’m just happy that it went in. Both teams could have won when the game is decided by one shot but were the one who go the victory today.” Perperologou continued, “We are playing better team basketball with better spacing and are playing more as a team. He also lets me play free and use my instinct in spacing on the court and I feel comfortable with that.”
3) How can we not mention Jerome Dyson and his 24 points, willing his team to victory with 14 points in the final frame. It took time for the guard to adjust to his third coach of the year, but it certainly looks like everyone is on the same page. Katash commented about the UCONN product,”He likes these moments and responsibility. Like the great players he thrives under pressure and it brings our the best in him like Stratos. He has ability and I know everyone looks at his offensive numbers but he played superb defense in the last quarter.” Katash also chimed in on his back and forth with Deandre Kane all game long, “Deandre Kane kept talking to him over the last three minutes and he knows what he’s doing.” It definitely looked like Kane was trying to get under his skin as much as possible and Dyson spoke about that following the game, “He was on me and pushing, but I do the same thing when I’m on defense, it’s always good playing against him.”
John DiBartolomeo came back from being out with an injury and played valiantly for 22 minutes, scoring 13 points going 5/8 with three 3-pointers, but it wasn’t enough. In fact, Maccabi has struggled down stretch in many games this season, both in the Euroleague and Israeli league. Number 12 spoke about that and what the goal has to be over the next month or so, “We had too many lapses down the stretch and we struggled with this throughout the season especially at home. That’s something we have to correct going into this last leg of the season.” Maccabi has to correct the lapses or else they’ll be on the outside looking in at yet another failed season and Final Four.