Hapoel Jerusalem defeated Hapoel Tel Aviv 85-80 to advance to the Israel State Cup quarterfinals where they will meet Maccabi Tel Aviv. The Capital City squad escaped upset minded Tel Aviv as Ariel Beit Halachmi’s short roster caused Oded Katash’s team major fits throughout the forty minutes of action. However, once Tomer Ginat went down due to a back injury, the Tel Aviv Reds were left with a very short roster and Jerusalem was able to take advantage of the situation with their depth to escape with the win.
James Feldeine was Jerusalem’s top scorer with 22 points, J’Covan Brown added 16 points while Tashawn Thomas and Bar Timor each chipped in with 12 points a piece. Elishay Kadir, Jordan Hamilton and Lenzelle Smith Jr. each scored 17 points for Hapoel Tel Aviv in the loss.
Tomer Ginat led Hapoel Tel Aviv out of the gate with 9 points as Ariel Beit Halachmi’s squad held an early lead at Hapoel Jerusalem midway through the first quarter. The Tel Aviv Reds continued to move the ball well as Jordan Hamilton and Lenzelle Smith Jr. hit their shots from the outside to take a 32-17 advantage after ten minutes.
James Feldeine helped Jerusalem to a 7-0 run to start the second quarter as Oded Katash’s crew cut the lead to 37-27 with five minutes remaining in the frame. Jerusalem’s dynamic duo of J’Covan Brown and Feldeine pressed as the clock wound down and found a way to head into halftime down by just 4-points, 46-42.
Trent Lockett and Feldeine kept scoring for Jerusalem to begin the third quarter but Joaquin Szuchman and Mark Lyons answered for Tel Aviv. However, a Feldeine layup gave the hosts a 56-55 lead midway through the third quarter. Ginat went down in a heap and exited the game due to a back injury as Beit Halachmi’s short rotation got even shorter. But Elishay Kadir scored inside and Lyons hit a triple from the outside to keep Tel Aviv relevant but went into the final frame down 65-60 after thirty minutes.
Hapoel Tel Aviv came out strong as Smith Jr., Kadir and Szuchman ran down Jerusalem but Brown was fouled while taking a 3-pointer and drained all three shots from the charity stripe to take a 74-71 lead with five minutes remaining in regulation time. Bar Timor hit a back door layup, while Tashawn Thomas and Suleiman Braimoh slammed the ball home to escape with an 85-80 victory to advance to the Israel State Cup quarterfinals where they will meet Maccabi Tel Aviv.
1) “The most important thing is always to win. We had a rough game in the Champions League and we wanted to find our rhythm and although we didn’t have it at the start of the game, we stuck to it and were able to pull out the victory.” J’Covan Brown said the truth but boy was this an ugly win. Nothing seemed to click for Jerusalem in the early goings as they went down 31-17 to a chorus of boos by the faithful. Not the start they wanted after having lost in France in which looked like a continuation of the European tilt. “We haven’t played our best basketball over the past few games but sometimes you have these types of streaks,” explained the winning coach Oded Katash. “We didn’t begin the game well and that it was my fault that we weren’t aggressive.“ it seems that this has been an issue now for a few weeks not just one or two games where the squad comes out flat like a pancake and then has to use heroics to comeback and snatch the victory for the jaws of defeat. Idan Zalmanson also concurred with the current prognosis, “It’s a symptom that we’ve seen over the past few games and I don’t really know why. We can all do better including myself and I can be more aggressive defensively and I plan on doing that the next game.” James Feldeine didn’t have any answers as to why the team isn’t ready to go off the bat, “We have to bring it from the jump ball. I have no idea why we can’t. It’s not the coaching staff’s fault and as far as the first five and I’m in that first five, we have to find a way to figure that out.”
2) It was clear that Hapoel Tel Aviv Coach was going to use all of the tools at his disposal to try and surprise Jerusalem and take the win. The hosts knew that from the get go said Feldeine, “It was another tough game for us and we knew it would be tough. When you’re a good team you know that your opponent is always going to bring their best and we expect that how.” Brown, who played for Beit Halachmi two seasons ago is very familiar with the style of play his former coach would employ to try and win the contest, “This was my old coach and he knew there was no pressure. They have a great group of talent but we found ways to stick to our game plan. We have to put our players in the right position to execute our game plan.” Katash was aware as to how Hapoel Tel Aviv would come out to play especially without injured center Demetrius Treadwell, “Hapoel Tel Aviv came in without their big man and a very small lineup which took us out of our regular game play. We lacked confidence in a must win game and we played not to lose when we should have gone out to play to win. We have to give credit to Hapoel Tel Aviv.”
3) Hapoel Tel Aviv had a very short roster and it got even shorter once Tomer Ginat went out with a back injury. The forward was a one man wrecking crew at the start of the game scoring his team’s first 9 points but after going out in the second half hurt, Beit Halachmi was really stuck in a bad spot, “I knew it wasn’t good when I saw Tomer go down but he wanted to come back in after taking some painkillers. He will have some tests and then we will see.” One of the positives the coach can take away from the game is that his squad is beginning to look like a team that he put together with Mark Lyons, Lenzelle Smith Jr. and Jordan Hamilton, one that uses tremendous ball movement and run and gun play, “I am very happy with the squad we have and they played as a team. They have a tough character but one that is good for Hapoel Tel Aviv. We have some more time until the next game and hopefully we will find a player to replace Denterius Treadwell and then make up for our poor start.” One other the player who played a huge role for Beit Halachmi was Elishay Kadir who scored 17 points, the most he had notched in over two years. The forward shared his thoughts about his standing with the club, “I feel that the guys really rely on me and Ariel is understanding how I play and is giving me more opportunities. We were very short without Tomer when he got hurt and playing without a center. We showed that we wanted to play hard and we did. Jerusalem is a good team and they have a deep roster. But we came to win and at the end of the day we came up a bit short.”
Idan Zalmanson looked ahead to Jerusalem’s upcoming Champions League game in Spain against San Pablo Burgos, “This was an important win ahead of the Burgos game on Wednesday and then Maccabi Tel Aviv on Monday. It’s not an easy game and in fact every game on the road is tough in Europe. I’m sure they will come ready to go with their crowd cheering them on. We have to get back to the basics who is tough defense, begin well and not go down.”
One of the players Zalmanson will see in Spain is JP Tokoto, his former Hapoel Eilta teammate, “Tokoto is a good friend and we are still in touch after playing together in Eilat via WhatsApp and it will be great to see him. We are very good friends except for the upcoming 40 minutes where I’ll have to give him a bit of an elbow, but after the game we give each other a big hug. We used to hang out together off the court and we had some great memories along with Lenzelle Smith who is playing with Hapoel Tel Aviv. Elijah Bryant and Frederic Bourdillon we are all over the league after a season with Eilat.”
They said it…
James Feldeine about continental ball: “We hate to lose especially in the Champions League. It’s a shorter season and the championship and playoffs come before the Israeli League finals so that’s our focus right now and every game is important. We have to try to come in first place so we gave home court advantage.”
Oded Katash on Nimrod Levy’s return from injury: “Nimrod is very important for us and the injury took him out of the game a bit. He defended well and rebounded well also. He will be factor as the season goes on.
J’Covan Brown: “We got to figure it out and come together and stop letting players beat us. We have to let teams beat us and not individuals.”