By Stefan Djordjevic/ firstname.lastname@example.org
With just one gameday left to go in the Basketball Champions League regular season, most of the teams secured a playoff ticket and only two spots remain.
Some of the squads have made a statement with impressive regular season feats. Among them, Hapoel Bank Yahav Jerusalem.
Hapoel may not have the top record among this season’s team lineup and at best they will get to their 11th win next week. Of course, that’s not by any means a bad run but they’ve seen better and what really sets them apart this year is that they are the first squad to seal the first spot in its respective group.
Even more than that, they are the only team this season to remain undefeated at home, winning all seven games.
Unconquerable Pais Arena
To put it into perspective, only in the first-ever BCL season was there more than one team to keep a perfect home record in the regular season.
Six teams did it back then but take into consideration that there were eight more teams participating than the following seasons. Monaco in 207-18 and Murcia in 2018-19 were the only squads to do it after that.
It was clear Hapoel means business after a 4-0 start this season including the first home game, against AEK.
The two squads were in the same group last season as well and n both instances, they split the games. This time both squads defended the home court.
Hapoel had to put up with AEK’s duo of Keith Langford and Howard Sant-Roos who combined for 45 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists but the Israeli team effort led by James Feldeine’s 19 points along with great paint control by TaShawn Thomas and Suleiman Braimoh pull them through.
Feldeine was also the one to bank 25 points and led the squad in their next home win, against RASTA Vechta.
In fact, these are Feldeine’s numbers in Hapoel’s BCL home games this season: 19, 25, 23, 17, 27, 5, 15. Apart from the five points against EB Pau-Lacq-Orthez, he was up to the task and more.
Feldeine has been one of the main forces pushing Hapoel forward this season, especially at home, but far from it that he’s alone.
The Fantastic Four
Feldeine gave Hapoel the initial push and steps up in crunch time when needed but TaShawn Thomas has been absolutely amazing.
He leads the squad with 22.2 PIR and has done so on 73.6% from the field which is league-best as he is the only player shooting above 70%.
And he has definitely outdone himself against San Pablo Burgos on Gameday 13 with 27 points on 11-14 shooting while also adding six boards, four blocks, four assists, and a steal for 38 PIR.
— Basketball Champions League (@BasketballCL) January 31, 2020
Right behind them, J’Covan Brown and Suleiman Braimoh are not slacking at all. Far from it. They are averaging 14.3 and 12.3 points respectively as well as 16.5 PIR each.
In fact, the best performance by a Hapoel player this season came from Braimoh himself, against Anwil Wloclawek on Gameday 4, at home (surprise, surprise).
He banked 33 points on outstanding 13-14 shooting while adding six boards, three assists, one steal and one block for 40 PIR.
Although it’s still too early to tell, that Fantastic Four might soon very well become a Fantastic Six as Hapoel’s new additions in John Holland and Shelvin Mack are doing nicely early on.
Holland’s averaging 16.3 points and 18.5 PIR over four games so far in BCL while Mack has an average of 15 in the two games he played.
Whether it’s four, six or 12, the Hapoel Jerusalem squad has shown it’s got what it takes to go all the way. Especially in the scoring department as they lead the league with 89.7 points per game as well as with 50% shooting from the field.
If they keep it up, seeing them lift the trophy at the end wouldn’t be at all a surprise.
Photo Credit: Basketball Champions League