Familiar and fresh faces in State Cup Final Four

Jerusalem ousts Hapoel TA, to face Hapoel Haifa in Final Four • Mac TA, Ness Ziona set to duel

 MACCABI TEL AVIV guard Lorenzo Brown goes to the basket for two of his 17 points in the yellow-and-blue’s 105-89 State Cup quarterfinal win over Bnei Herzliya. (photo credit: Kobi Eliyahu)
MACCABI TEL AVIV guard Lorenzo Brown goes to the basket for two of his 17 points in the yellow-and-blue’s 105-89 State Cup quarterfinal win over Bnei Herzliya.
(photo credit: Kobi Eliyahu)

Hapoel Jerusalem knocked out Hapoel Tel Aviv from the Israel State Cup with a 86-67 victory this week at the Drive-In Arena to advance to the semifinals.

The capital city Reds came out like a house on fire and never let up as Khadeen Carrington made his first start of the season and propelled Aleksandar Dzikic’s squad to a quick lead with shock-and-awe offense and aggressive defense. Speedy Smith and Zach Hankins finished off the masterpiece as they ran the attack to perfection and never took their foot off the pedal to punch Jerusalem’s ticket to the Final Four, where it will play Hapoel Haifa in a semifinal matchup.

Carrington set the tone early with a pair of triples while Hankins and Mareks Majeris scored inside to give Jerusalem a double-digit lead (23-12) after the first quarter,

Starlet Noam Yaacov made his debut for the Reds in the second frame, which saw the visitors extend their lead to 43-29 by halftime.

J’Covan Brown and Tomer Ginat tried to keep Danny Franco’s team in the game as the second half got underway, but Smith and Oz Blayzer got busy to keep Jerusalem ahead 65-47 after 30 minutes while Hankins punctuated the performance with dunks aplenty to help close out the 19-point victory.

 SPEEDY SMITH is no stranger to Israeli basketball and specifically chose Hapoel Jerusalem in part due to its Serbian coach Aleksandar Dzikic, who was previously an assistant in the NBA. (credit: YEHUDA HALICKMAN) SPEEDY SMITH is no stranger to Israeli basketball and specifically chose Hapoel Jerusalem in part due to its Serbian coach Aleksandar Dzikic, who was previously an assistant in the NBA. (credit: YEHUDA HALICKMAN)

Hankins led the way with 18 points and 17 rebounds, Carrington added 17 points, Smith chipped in with 16 points and eight assists while Mejeris scored 12 points in the win. Brown scored 18 points and Ginat added 10 points in the loss.

“The cup is a specific competition and it’s a knockout game and the players understood that,” Dzikic explained. “We won in the end and that’s a good thing. When you win these types of games it projects on other games that follow and not necessarily in a good way. We have to find a balance of what we did in this game going forward. We have a giant killer next [league] game in Bnei Herzliya and they beat Maccabi Tel Aviv, Hapoel Tel Aviv and us. To underestimate them would be a mistake.”

Blayzer pointed to the team’s tenacity as the key to the victory.

“We came out aggressive which is something that we had been missing recently and we knew the importance of the game. Now we are just two wins away from the Cup.”

Ginat spoke about the game from Hapoel Tel Aviv’s point of view.

“Jerusalem ran and we were unable to do what we are regularly doing. There is obviously pressure but we didn’t go into it with extra pressure and Jerusalem really played tough on defense. We wanted to try and close down the rebounds in the second half and get back into the game, but it didn’t work out.”

Haifa stunned Holon

Elsewhere, Hapoel Haifa stunned Hapoel Holon 80-78 to advance to the semifinals.

Anthony Hickey starred for the Carmel Reds all game long as he scored at will and hit the winning bucket to send Sharon Drucker’s team into the Final Four where they await Hapoel Jerusalem.

Hickey began to make his mark right from the outset of the game while Will Rayman also hit his shots from beyond the arc to put Haifa into the lead 42-35 at halftime.

But Joe Ragland, Shawn Dawson and Marvin Jones helped Guy Goodes’s squad to a 20-2 third-quarter run to give Holon a 64-59 lead after 30 minutes as it seemed the momentum was all on the host’s side.

However, Ofek Avital and Devonte Upson pushed the Carmel Reds back into the lead as time wound down before CJ Harris found his stroke to tie the game up at 78-78 with 20 seconds left in the game.

With Hickey taking the ball out of a Haifa timeout, the guard silenced the crowd when he hit the game-winning jumper with two seconds left to sew up the win.

Hickey led the way for Haifa with 24 points and eight assists, Rayman added 12 points while Avital and Upson each scored eight points in the victory. Ragland scored 19 points, Harris chipped in with 18 points and Jones put in 13 points for Holon in the loss.

“It was a huge game and our third in the last six days,” Drucker began. “We lost to Holon by two points at home and we studied that game to see what we could do. We hit some terrific three-pointers but they came back. At the end Hickey made the big play. This win is a prize for the entire club and it’s the first time since 1999 that we are in the semifinals. I’m so proud of how we battled in this game.”

Lopsided victory

Meanwhile, Maccabi Tel Aviv walloped Bnei Herzliya 105-89 as it took out all of the frustration from the Panathinaikos loss last week in the 16-point win to advance to the semifinals.

The yellow-and-blue had six players in double-digit scoring in the win that will now see it tip off against Ness Ziona in the Final Four.

The game turned very quickly into a track meet as Lorenzo Brown scored at will in the first quarter while Jake Cohen, Rafi Menco and Wade Baldwin all got busy in the second period to give Maccabi a 59-44 lead at halftime.

Kemp tried to keep Herzliya close in the third quarter, but Cohen and Bonzie Colson made sure that there would be no comeback in this game as the yellow-and-blue cruised to the win.

Menco who went 5-of-5 from deep and Brown each scored 17 points, Cohen added 15 points, Baldwin chipped in with 13 points while Colson and Roman Sorkin each scored 10 points in a win that saw Maccabi go 16-of-27 (59%) from beyond the arc.

Kemp led all scorers with 23 points while Gabe Levin and Sandy Cohen scored 14 points apiece in the loss.

“All in all it was a good game,” Maccabi coach Oded Katash began. “The first quarter we weren’t aggressive enough and we weren’t focused well enough but in the second quarter a few minutes we really locked down and changed the complexion of the game. I was happy with how we played offensively and parts I liked defensively. At Maccabi Tel Aviv, every title shouldn’t be taken for granted.”

“Maccabi deserves a lot of credit and they played really well," Herzliya coach Oren Aharoni said. “We weren’t aggressive enough and didn’t have depth as they scored really well, and our defense just wasn’t there in this game.”

Also, Nes Ziona downed Hapoel Beersheba 83-79 to punch its ticket to the semis and a date with Maccabi Tel Aviv.

Tyler Bey, Shaq Buchanan and Ronnie Harrell put Elad Hasin’s squad into the lead early on, but Greg Whittington and David Efiyani helped the hosts pull to within 80-77 with a minute remaining in the game.

However, DJ Cooper hit a late triple to seal the deal for Ness Ziona and send it to the Final Four.

Buchanan scored 22 points, Bey added 18 points and Harrell chipped in with 15 points in the win while Whittington scored 18 points and Efiyani put in 13 points in the defeat.