Local Basketball: Hapoel J'lem wins State Cup

Reds record 103-85 victory over Bnei Hasharon at Nokia Arena to win cup for third time in their history.

Hapoel jerusalem 298.88 (photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Hapoel jerusalem 298.88
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
After an excruciating, 10-year wait, Hapoel Jerusalem once again held aloft the State Cup on Thursday night, outplaying Bnei Hasharon in all facets of the game to record a 103-85 victory at Nokia Arena. Acting President Dalia Itzik presented the Cup to captain Meir Tapiro. Jerusalem hadn't won a title in Israel since Adi Gordon single-handedly led it to the State Cup in 1997 and had no intention of squandering Maccabi Tel Aviv's rare semifinal defeat on Monday. Bnei Hasharon was unable to peak twice in three days, and could only keep up with Jerusalem for one quarter. Hapoel won the second period by a 14-point margin (29-15) and maintained its lead for the remainder of the game, cruising undisturbed to victory for the entire second half. Hapoel dominated the play under the baskets, with Mario Austin leading the team with 27 points and six rebounds. Dror Hajaj scored 18 points for Dan Shamir's squad, with Terrence Morris adding 15 points and nine rebounds. Jerusalem hit an atmospheric 66 percent of their shots from the field and, despite Lee Nailon's 19 points and Moshe Mizrahi's 16 for Bnei Hasharon, strolled to the win. The lead went back and forth at the start of the game. Nailon's eighth point of the first quarter gave Bnei Hasharon a 16-13 lead, but Morris's three with two minutes to go tied the score at 18. Tapiro's basket from beyond the arc with 30 seconds remaining in the first period put Hapoel up 26-22 and the reds held a three-point advantage (26-23) after 10 minutes. Hajaj's 12 points in the period were the main reason behind Jerusalem's slender lead, while Bnei Hasharon's near-perfect free-throw shooting (11-for-12) kept it close. Hajaj continued his exquisite shooting at the start of the second quarter and gave his team a six-point lead. Bnei Hasharon matched Jerusalem basket for basket, with Cookie Belcher's three bringing his team within three points once again (29-26). As the second period progressed, Hapoel's defense tightened and its lead slowly began to grow. Timmey Bowers's basket off an offensive rebound put his side up by seven points (35-28) and Jerusalem started to dominate. For the first time in the game, Bnei Hasharon was unable to respond and Hapoel began to turn up the pressure. A Bowers three a minute before halftime gave Hapoel a 14-point advantage, and another steal and basket by the American guard put his club in a commanding 55-38 lead at the break. Hapoel continued to extend its margin at the start of the second half and two straight threes by Austin pushed the score to 65-42. Bnei Hasharon was unable to muster any serious comeback and Jerusalem had its way on both sides of the court. Morris and Austin controlled the paint and Hapoel took a 22-point lead (79-57) into the final 10 minutes. Bnei Hasharon looked down-and-out at the start of the fourth period and failed to make any impression on Hapoel's lead. Jerusalem remained comfortably ahead for the last 10 minutes and cruised to an historic third State Cup.