Hapoel Jerusalem and Maccabi Tel Aviv move into semifinals

Reds eliminate Gilboa/Galil to earn date with Holon • Yellow-and-blue to face Herzliya after derby W

 Hapoel Jerusalem  big man Suleiman Braimoh grabs a rebound during the Reds’ dominant 84-42 victory on Monday night to oust Hapoel Gilboa/Galil.  (photo credit: MAOR ELKASLASI)
Hapoel Jerusalem big man Suleiman Braimoh grabs a rebound during the Reds’ dominant 84-42 victory on Monday night to oust Hapoel Gilboa/Galil.
(photo credit: MAOR ELKASLASI)

Hapoel Jerusalem and Maccabi Tel Aviv both moved on to the Israel basketball league semifinals as they each vanquished their quarterfinal opponents in four games.

The Reds disposed of pesky Hapoel Gilboa/Galil and will now get ready to face Hapoel Holon, which had gotten by Hapoel Galil Elyon in its first playoff series after coming off the FIBA Champions League Final Four.

The yellow-and-blue will welcome Israel State Cup holder Bnei Herzliya in their best-of-three semifinal series after a tough derby quarterfinal series with Hapoel Tel Aviv.

Hapoel Jerusalem cruised to a 84-42 win over Hapoel Gilboa/Galil to take their series 3-1 and move into the semifinals, with the opening tip-off against Hapoel Holon on Friday afternoon at the Jerusalem Arena.

The Galilee squad tried to keep it close early up in Gan Ner as Michael Brisker and Derek Cooke scored in spurts, but KC Rivers dialed up long distance to lead Yotam Halperin’s team to a 40-23 lead at halftime.

KC RIVERS (13) follows through on a shot in his Hapoel Jerusalem debut this week, in which he was key contributor in a 89-88 victory over Bnei Herzliya. (credit: DOV HALICKMAN PHOTOGRAPHY)KC RIVERS (13) follows through on a shot in his Hapoel Jerusalem debut this week, in which he was key contributor in a 89-88 victory over Bnei Herzliya. (credit: DOV HALICKMAN PHOTOGRAPHY)

Retin Obasohan and John Egbunu paced the Reds’ offense over the course of the second half to help Jerusalem roll to the 42-point victory.

Egbunu and Obasohan each scored 14 points while Rivers added 11 points and Suleiman Braimoh chipped in nine points in the win.

Cooke recorded a double-double for Gilboa with 12 points and 11 rebounds, Brisker added nine points and Ronnie Harrell scored seven points in the season-ending loss.

“We wanted the game to be like the third one where it would be close throughout and cause Jerusalem issues,” Gilboa coach Guy Kaplan began. “But as the time went by during the game we got tired and I can’t blame the players as we were shorthanded and we squeezed as much as we could out of the lemon. I made mistakes as well, but did our best and at the end of the day we did make it to a Game 4, however, Jerusalem deserved to advance.”

“We came as clear favorites,” Jerusalem bench boss Yotam Halperin explained. “It’s clear that it’s not easy once you lose at home to open the series and then have to go on the road for Game 2 as the pressure built up. But we went to Gan Ner and we played well to win Game 2. Game 3 was also tough at the beginning, but we found solutions to take the victory. Overall, I’m happy that we came back up here and completed the job.”

Reds guard Obasohan was the game MVP and also reflected on his team’s performance,

“I think the tone for this series was really set in the first game. Both teams came out to play hard and physical. We had to adapt and respond and remind ourselves about who we are and how we can be successful as a team as well as being consistent with that.”

Meanwhile, Maccabi Tel Aviv defeated Hapoel Tel Aviv 82-77 to wrap up the series 3-1 and now sets its sights on Herzliya.

Scottie Wilbekin and Derrick Williams put on a show for Maccabi over the course of the second half, combining for 31 of their 53 points in the final two frames to take the victory.

The yellow-and-blue started off slow as Idan Zalmanson helped the Reds snatch a double-digit first-quarter lead and they held onto the advantage at halftime 43-35.

Wilbekin and Williams caught fire from deep in the third quarter to give Maccabi a 55-53 lead after 30 minutes.

J’Covan Brown and JP Tokoto began to cut into the Maccabi lead, but the Wilbekin-Williams duo led the way over the final few minutes to close out the series and send Avi Even’s squad into the next round.

Wilbekin led the way with 28 points, Williams added 25 points and nine rebounds and Roman Sorkin scored 10 points and pulled down 12 boards for Maccabi in the win.

Brown paced the Reds with 21 points, Zalmanson scored 17 points and Tokoto chipped in with 15 points in the loss.

“I’m happy that we were able to win here at the Drive-In for the second time and that we advanced to the semifinals,” Maccabi coach Even began. I’m disappointed that we lost at home last game, but we won and we moved on. I’m happy that the guys left it all on the court like we all expected as a team and as in every game that we play.”

“It’s the end of a season that had many ups and downs along the way,” Hapoel coach Danny Franco said. “I’m very happy here and I really like the players. It’s important that I can help take Hapoel to the heights of Israeli basketball. We may have played shorthanded and we didn’t know what would be, but we wanted to defeat Maccabi Tel Aviv. Now we have to think about how we can improve and deal with the many injuries we had and improve upon our seventh-place season. We were missing something and that was the story today.”

Maccabi’s Williams spoke about the game from his point of view while also looking ahead to the upcoming semifinal series.

“I just wanted to get the win and that was the main thing. As for Bnei Herzliya, it’s not who we play, it depends on us to be ready. They are good players, but we have a lot of good players on our team and when we are locked in, we can beat anyone.”

Reds captain Bar Timor also reflected on the game that was.

“If we finished seventh in the standings then that is where we deserved to finish. There were some wins and losses along the way and we may have been able to play a bit better, but overall there is a feeling that we missed out.”