Holon, Rishon, Hapoel Tel Aviv, Jerusalem into State Cup semifinals

Rishon Lezion shocked Maccabi Tel Aviv 88-77 to advance to the semifinals by knocking out last year’s finalist.

By JOSHUA HALICKMAN
December 31, 2018 15:50
CAMERON LONG (right) scored 17 points for Maccabi Rishon Lezion on Sunday night

CAMERON LONG (right) scored 17 points for Maccabi Rishon Lezion on Sunday night in a surprise 88-77 victory over Maccabi Tel Aviv in State Cup quarterfinal action over the weekend. (photo credit: DANNY MARON)

 
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Hapoel Holon, Maccabi Rishon Lezion, Hapoel Jerusalem and Hapoel Tel Aviv all advanced to the Israel State Cup Final Four, which will be played in February at the Pais Arena in Jerusalem.

Rishon Lezion shocked Maccabi Tel Aviv 88-77 to advance to the semifinals by knocking out last year’s finalist. The wine city squad dominated the yellow-and-blue throughout the contest as Guy Goodes’s side outhustled, outplayed and outworked Ioannis Sfairopoulos’s team. Egor Koulechov scored 18 points, Cameron Long added 17 points while DeShawn Stephens chipped in with 12 points in the win. Scottie Wilbekin dropped 17 points and Alex Tyus scored 12 points for Maccabi.

Rishon came out strong thanks to a pair of triples by Koulechov to take a quick 11-4 lead forcing Maccabi to take a timeout, but the yellow-and-blue finished the frame strong as Jake Cohen hit a couple of threes to narrow the hosts’ lead to just four points (20-16). Goodes and his squad again pushed Maccabi and extended the lead to 35-18 with six minutes remaining in the half as former Maccabi forward Diamon Simpson rattled off nine points for Rishon. The hosts continued to build on their fine play as Nimrod Tishman hit two from beyond the arc to go into halftime with a commanding 51-29 lead.

Wilbekin led Maccabi back into the game, cutting the Rishon lead to 61-48 with 3:31 left in the third quarter, but Koulechov, Simpson and Long held serve and went into the final frame up 65-51. Michael Roll put home eight points over the first five minutes of the final quarter to give Maccabi a lifeline, but Rishon’s Hamilton and Stephens each scored seven points to sew up the 88-77 upset win.

“We executed and played really well plus our young guys are just really, really talented,” Diamon Simpson told The Jerusalem Post.

“I told the players before the game that if we win, we will be remembered for a long time,” said a content Goodes after the game. “I had an advantage when I was preparing my players as I had been an assistant coach with Maccabi Tel Aviv earlier in the season. I was surprised that we played such a good first half as we headed into halftime with a 22-point lead. I’m happy for Rishon Lezion that we are now in the semifinals.”

Meanwhile, Hapoel Jerusalem needed all 40 minutes to put away Hapoel Gilboa/Galil 89-83. With the score tied at 64-64 heading into the fourth quarter, former Gilboa guard J’Covan Brown led a 7-0 run to help the Reds to the victory. James Feldeine scored 22 points and collected eight rebounds, Brown dropped 21 points, Tamir Blatt added 18 points (all coming from three-pointers), while Tashawn Thomas scored 16 points in the win. Ian Miller led all scorers with 24 points and Greg Whittington chipped in with 22 points for the hosts in defeat.

Oded Katash’s side relied heavily on guards Blatt, Brown and Feldeine, along with Yogev Ohayon and Bar Timor due to a number of injuries to big men Da’Sean Butler, Chris Johnson and Lior Eliyahu, and took a 47-40 lead into halftime. However, the Jerusalem Reds had a tough time breaking away in the third frame as Miller and James Kelly kept Ariel Beit Halchmi’s team hanging around as Ezequiel Skverer hit a three at the end of the quarter to draw even at 64-64.

But two straight three pointers by Feldeine, a 7-0 run thanks to Brown and Blatt’s 6th triple of the game gave Katash’s squad the hard earned win.

Hapoel Tel Aviv needed overtime to defeat Hapoel Beersheba 95-94 and move into the semifinals. Jerel McNeal led all scorers will 30 points, Tomer Ginat dropped 20 points while DeVaughn Akoon-Purcell added 13 points in the dramatic win.

Jordan Swing scored 26 points, Taylor Braun chipped in with 18 points and Hanan Colman ended the night with 12 points in the loss.

Hapoel Tel Aviv jumped all over Beersheba in the first half to take a 44-35 lead thanks to McNeal’s 14 points, Alade Aminu’s eight points and seven rebounds, along with Ginat’s eight points on an efficient 17-for-27 team shooting performance. The hosts struggled mightily out of the gate, going an abysmal 4-for-19 from three-point land over the first 20 minutes of action.

But Beersheba climbed back into the game as Swing, Braun and Colman came up with clutch shot after clutch shot as time wound down. Akoon-Purcell drilled a triple with three seconds left in regulation to take a three-point lead, but Amit Gershon sent the contest into overtime when he drained a three off of the backboard as time expired to tie up the game at 81-81.

The two squads went back and forth in the extra frame, but Rich Howell hit the front end of a pair of free throws with five seconds remaining while Braun missed a last-gasp layup as Tel Aviv advanced to the Final Four thanks to the one-point win.

Also, Hapoel Holon easily got by Hapoel Eilat 97-71 down south to punch its ticket to the semifinals. Shawn Jones recorded a double-double with 19 points and 11 rebounds, Dequan Jones added 16 points while Khalif Wyatt and Corey Walden each had 13 points in the win.

Elijah Bryant (19 points) and Suleiman Braimoh (17 points) led Eilat, which lost for the first time after nine straight victories.

Holon took the game to Eilat early on as it headed into halftime with a 47-36 advantage thanks to 11 points and seven boards by Shawn Jones, while T.J. Cline and Wyatt each scored eight points. Bryant tried to keep Eilat close with 10 points of his own over the first two periods, but Shawn Jones and Amit Simhon helped visiting Holon break the game open with a monster third quarter as Dan Shamir’s squad headed into the fourth quarter sporting a 73-50 lead. Dequan Jones and Darion Atkins continued the onslaught for Holon as it closed out the comfortable win.

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