Hapoel Jerusalem center Amar’e Stoudemire (left) had 10 points on his debut on Israeli soil yesterday, helping his team to a 93-81 win over Maccabi Rishon Lezion in the semifinals of the preseason Winner Cup in Nahariya..
(photo credit: ERAN LUF)
Maccabi Tel Aviv and Hapoel Jerusalem renew their rivalry in the pre-season Winner Cup final on Saturday night following comfortable wins in the semifinals in Nahariya on Thursday.
Maccabi beat Ironi Nahariya in the second semi after Jerusalem overcame Maccabi Rishon Lezion 93-81 in a repeat of last season’s BSL final won by Rishon.
Maccabi and Jerusalem only met in the BSL regular season in 2015/16, with their last meeting in a final coming in the State Cup in 2015.
The teams played in the Winner Cup final in 2014 and 2015, with Maccabi winning the first and Jerusalem the second.
Both teams have undergone dramatic changes since, including this past summer when both clubs replaced their coaching staffs as well as the majority of their players.
The initial signs for both have been encouraging, with Maccabi having little trouble brushing aside Nahariya on Thursday. Maccabi scored 29 points in the first period to open an eight-point gap (29-21) and Nahariya could come no closer. Tel Aviv led by 10 points (51-41) at the break and there was little to play for in the final 10 minutes after Maccabi opened a 74-54 margin.
The semifinal between Jerusalem and Rishon was tighter, but Hapoel controlled the final quarter to register a win on Amar’e Stoudemire’s debut in Israel.
The six-time NBA All-Star finished with 10 points and six rebounds in 22 minutes.
Curtis Jerrells led Jerusalem with 26 points, while Travis Peterson added 13 points and Lior Eliyahu and Jerome Dyson had 12 points each for Hapoel, which shot 21-of- 36 (58%) from two-point range and 11-of-20 (55%) from beyond the arc.
“Our game plan was to keep the rhythm high,” said Jerusalem’s new coach Simone Pianigiani. “Our defense was not bad but they scored too much because we made too many turnovers in the first half. We played a good game but it is too early and we need to keep working.”
The Italian was pleased with Stoudemire’s Israeli debut.
“I am satisfied because after two fouls that arrived too early he was not nervous. He stayed calm and stayed in the right position until the end and played good defense,” said Pianigiani.
It took just one minute for Stoudemire to register his first highlight in the Holy Land. It came on defense, with Stoudemire blocking Nimrod Levy at the basket.
It took just two minutes though for Stoudemire to pick up two fouls and he was soon sent to the bench.
Rishon took full advantage, with Anthony Hilliard’s three-pointer opening an eight-point gap (19-11).
A 10-2 Hapoel run moved it in front (25-24) early in the second period and there was little to separate the teams in the remainder of the first half, with Jerusalem taking a fourpoint edge (43-39) into the break.
Stoudemire capped a 14-4 surge to start the second half, opening what seemed like a comfortable 14-point advantage (57-43).
However, Rishon fought back to cut the deficit to three points (67-64) and the game was wide open entering the final quarter.
A Hilliard triple kept Rishon within three points (82-79) with three minutes to play, but Jerrells ensured Jerusalem remained in the lead and returned to the Winner Cup final after a one year absence.