Hapoel Jerusalem’s Champions League dreams were dashed late Wednesday night after falling to Tenerife 81-64 in Spain.
After a slim 75-73 home victory last week against the Canary Island squad in the two-legged cumulative-score series, the Reds needed to play a complete game in order to get by one of the strongest teams in the competition. However, an early first quarter 15-0 run by the hosts put Oded Katash’s team in a hole that was very difficult to dig out of.
Only two Jerusalem players reached double digits in points, with James Feldeine scoring 20 points and Da’Sean Butler adding 11 points as the Reds shot an abysmal 36% from the field.
Tim Abromaitis was the leading point scorer with 21 points for Tenerife, while Nicolas Brussino added 15 points and Ferran Bassas chipped in with 14 points in the win.
The game began tight our of the gate, but with the score 9-8 in favor of Jerusalem, Tenerife went on a 15-0 run as Brussino hit three triples to give the hosts a 24-10 lead after 10 minutes of play.
Amar’e Stoudemire (six points) and Butler helped cut the deficit to 30-24, but Brussino and Bassas hit key shots to help Tenerife to a 40-26 halftime advantage.
Abromaitis got to work in the third quarter, as did the host’s defense to stymie Jerusalem, with Tenerife taking a 62-43 lead into the final frame. Katash’s squad again scraped back to within nine points (72-63), but Tenerife was too strong on this night as Abromaitis and Lucca Staiger put the finishing touches on the win to advance to the Final Four of the competition.
Jerusalem coach Katash was very disappointed following the contest.
“We’re very disappointed and we wanted this a lot,” said Katash “In both games, they were able to stop us and get us out of rhythm on things that we had done well all season long.
“We wanted to make corrections for the second game and we knew that we were playing against a good team with a lot of quality who play well together. They forced us out of our normal game plan and our strengths. We are a good passing team and we weren’t able to take advantage of that. We also suffered when some of our players couldn’t get into the game, as well as the first leg.”
Feldeine also looked back at the game that was with chagrin.
“I’m very disappointed,” said Feldeine. “We had a chance to go to the Final Four and host it at home and we blew it. We couldn’t score and this was the lowest point total at halftime that we had all season. They are a good team and they make three-pointers at home. A lot of things went wrong for us.”
Tenerife will join Antwerp, Bologna and Bamberg in the Champions League Final Four which will take place during the first week of May. Meanwhile, Jerusalem will begin preparations for its next league contest at home when it welcomes arch-rival Maccabi Tel Aviv.
Speaking of Maccabi Tel Aviv, albeit the soccer club, Bnei Yehuda shocked the yellow-and-blue 1-0 in the Israel State Cup semifinals, also late Wednesday night, ending the Premier League champions’ quest for a treble.
A Yuval Ashkenazi 25-meter blast coming off a set piece corner kick in the 77th minute made the difference. Tel Aviv ’keeper Predrag Rajkovic had no chance to make the save as the ball was perfectly placed into the top right hand corner of the goal.
The last time the two clubs faced each other in State Cup play was two years ago, when Bnei Yehuda defeated Maccabi in the competition’s final on penalties after 120 minutes of goalless play at the same Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem. The year prior, Maccabi fell to Maccabi Haifa in the final which was also held in the capital city.
Maccabi Tel Aviv controlled the pace of play throughout the 90 minutes as coach Vladimir Ivic’s side was dominant on both sides of the pitch. But the loss of a number of players due to injury, including assist leader Dor Micha, made it difficult for Maccabi to break down Yossi Abuksis’s iron-clad defense.
A controversial non-call on a Bnei Yehuda handball in the box during injury time could have led to a Maccabi penalty, but it wasn’t meant to be as the yellow-and-blue fell for the first time in any competition since losing to Sarpsborg in Europa League qualifying back in August 2018, an unbeaten run of 31 straight games overall.
The star of the contest, Ashkenazi, was all smiles following the game.
“This was an amazing moment, one I had always dreamed of. Of course we believed that we could beat Maccabi Tel Aviv, otherwise why bother even playing the game. We all fought hard and battled on the pitch. I’m happy we were able to do it and move on to the final.”
Bnei Yehuda coach Abuksis was thrilled with the effort his players exhibited.
“This is very exciting because Maccabi Tel Aviv hasn’t lost all season long,” said Abuksis. “We spoke about this before the game and said that it’s time that someone beat them.”
Bnei Yehuda will play Maccabi Netanya for the coveted trophy in May after the Diamond City side squeaked by Hapoel Hadera 1-0 on a goal by Gabriel Kanichowsky late Tuesday night.
Joshua Halickman, the Sports Rabbi, covers Israeli sports and organizes Israel sports adventures for tourists and residents. Follow the Sports Rabbi on Twitter @thesportsrabbi or visit www.sportsrabbi.com. Feel free to contact the Sports Rabbi via email at