Jerusalem, Nahariya to duel for State Cup

Defending-champion Reds conquer Rishon in semifinals, Northerners hang on to edge Ness Ziona

TASHAWN THOMAS and Hapoel Jerusalem claimed a 90-78 victory over Maccabi Rishon Lezion on Monday night in the State Cup semifinals (photo credit: DANNY MARON)
TASHAWN THOMAS and Hapoel Jerusalem claimed a 90-78 victory over Maccabi Rishon Lezion on Monday night in the State Cup semifinals
(photo credit: DANNY MARON)
Hapoel Jerusalem and Ironi Nahariya advanced to the Israel Basketball State Cup final by defeating Maccabi Rishon Lezion and Ness Ziona, respectively, in a pair of entertaining semifinal contests on Monday night.
The showdown is slated for Thursday night at Yad Eliyahu in the presence of the President Reuven Rivlin, as Jerusalem will be defending the championship that it won last season while the Northerners will be making their first-ever appearance in the final.
Jerusalem downed Rishon Lezion 90-78 as the Reds got off to a quick start and never let up, with James Feldeine and John Holland scoring early and often to propel Oded Katash’s squad to its second final in a row.
Holland led Jerusalem with 15 points, Feldeine and TaShawn Thomas each had 14 points while J’Covan Brown and Tamir Blatt each added 11 points in the win. Darryl Monroe scored 27 points and Alex Hamilton chipped in with 15 points for Rishon in the loss.
Holland and Blatt hit three-pointers to open the first quarter while Feldeine scored from the inside to give Jerusalem a 16-7 lead midway through the frame.
Feldeine and Brown hits triples, but Monroe and Hamilton found the basket for Rishon as the Reds held a 31-19 advantage after 10 minutes.
Holland, Thomas and Idan Zalmanson kept scoring for Jerusalem in the second quarter, but Monroe and Oz Blayzer countered for Rishon and Hapoel maintained a 39-29 lead with four minutes left in the half.
Blatt hit another three, but the duo of Monroe and Hamilton kept scoring to cut the Jerusalem’s lead to 48-40 at the break.
Jerusalem began the third quarter with four points from Holland, but a Monroe bucket, free throws from Hamilton and a triple by Adam Ariel kept Rishon in the game.
Another Monroe three-pointer allowed Guy Goodes’s squad to close the gap to 56-52 midway through the third, however Brown drilled a triple off a timeout, Thomas scored in the paint and Blatt hit a corner three to bump the Reds’ lead up to 68-54 with 3:34 left in the quarter.
Brown drove to the basket for a layup and Feldeine sunk another shot from beyond the arc as Jerusalem took an insurmountable 75-60 advantage into the fourth quarter.
Suleiman Braimoh put down a poster dunk to get the final frame rolling for Jerusalem as the Reds continued to score at will with Nimrod Levi and Holland putting in points as Hapoel claimed the 12-point conquest to oust Rishon and advance to the final.
“I’m very happy and proud with how the team played and with how focused the players were,” said a content Katash. “I have to say a word about the fans, who were terrific. When they support the team the way they did tonight, we have no choice but to give 100% just as we did in this win.”
Meanwhile, Nahariya defeated Ness Ziona 91-86 in a rough-and-tumble battle, but the northerners led from wire to wire as they got out of the gate with a 11-0 run thanks to sharp shooting by guard Dominic Waters.
Daequan Cook tried to match Waters shot for shot, but Ness Ziona’s supporting cast simply couldn’t match Nahariya’s fire power.
Waters ended the game with 28 points and six assists, Diamon Simpson scored 14 points while Egor Koulechov and Jerel McNeal added 12 points apiece for Nahariya in the win.
Cook led all scorers with 35 points – hitting eight three-pointers – while Corey Fisher chipped in with 15 points for Ness Ziona in defeat.
After Nahariya got off to a hot start and double-digit lead, Ness Ziona coach Nadav Zilberstein inserted JP Tokoto to freshen up the offense which he immediately did to help cut Nahariya’s lead to 14-11 with under three minutes remaining in the first quarter.
However, Waters hit two three-pointers and a pair of jumpers to end the frame with 17 points and a 27-19 lead for Nahariya.
Simpson and Cook came kept trading bucket and Danny Franco’s northern squad continued to lead 36-26 midway through the second. Tony Gaffney and Waters bumped the lead up to 47-32, but Golan Gutt and Fisher each hit threes as part of a 9-0 Ness Ziona run to cut the gap to 47-41 at halftime.
Ness Ziona ultimately pulled even at 48-48 early in the third, but another Waters triple, a Koulechov dunk and a three by McNeal helped give Nahariya a 69-54 advantage heading into the final stanza.
Cook kept hitting his shot from beyond the arc and almost singlehandedly cut the Nahariya lead to 71-67 with 6:54 left in regulation. The gap got as close as 77-74 with 3:21 to go before Gaffney and Waters each hit triples to give Nahariya some breathing room
While Cook kept scoring to keep Ness Ziona alive, he couldn’t turn the tide. Tal Dunne and McNeal got into a shoving match, which resulted in both being ejected with 1:23 to play, and Waters and Koulechov hit their free throws late for Nahariya, which held on for the five-point semifinal victory.
“We executed coach Franco’s game plan to a ‘T’ in the first quarter,” said Nahariya captain Gaffney. “People thought that we would be satisfied with advancing to the Final Four, but our long-term goal is to hoist that trophy and we are only one game away from doing that.”