Hapoel Jerusalem’s Greek forward Stratos Perperoglou (right) scores two of his six points during his BSL debut last night, beating Ironi Nahariya’s Yiftach Ziv to the basket in the 76-68 win at Ein Sara..
(photo credit: ERAN LUF)
Hapoel Jerusalem opened its BSL title defense with a hardfought 76-68 win over Ironi Nahariya at Ein Sara on Sunday night, settling any nerves at the club after a far from impressive preseason.
Jerusalem lost four of its six preseason games, including an 87-84 defeat to Nahariya in the quarterfinals of the Winner Cup last week.
Another defeat to Nahariya would have put Hapoel’s new Greek coach Fotis Katsikaris under unwanted early pressure, the last thing Jerusalem needed before visiting Lietkabelis Panevezys in Lithuania in its first Eurocup game of the season on Wednesday.
Nahariya got off to the better start, opening an early nine-point lead (19-10) before Hapoel limited the damage by scoring the final five points of the first quarter (19- 15). The hosts were still ahead by seven points (38-31) at the break, but a 16-0 Jerusalem run to start the second half turned the game on its head.
Richard Howell’s basket capped the surge (47-38) and Hapoel never lost the lead. Nahariya remained within striking distance, but the visitors always seemed to be in control and opened their season with a win.
Jerome Dyson and Austin Daye had 14 points each for Jerusalem, with Curtis Jerrells scoring 13 points. Corey Webster and Denzel Livingston netted 14 points each for Nahariya.
“It is important to start with a victory on the road,” said Katsikaris.
“It is very obvious our team isn’t ready to have more than 20 good minutes. We were very nervous in the first half.
We didn’t take care of transition defense, but in the second half we went out with concentration and played good defense and on offense we were more confident.”
Nine Jerusalem players were on court between 13 and 33 minutes and Katsikaris explained he was trying to keep his roster fresh ahead of the Eurocup opener.
“I believe in a long rotation and it is a challenge for every player on our roster,” he noted.
Hapoel Tel Aviv bounced back from an early double-digit deficit to beat Hapoel Holon 81-78 on Sunday. Holon was in control for much of the first half, but the hosts fought back and Tywain McKee’s three-pointer to end the second period tied the score at 44-44. Tel Aviv built on the momentum at the start of the second half, opening with a 14-2 run. Holon closed to within two points (69-67), but couldn’t complete a comeback.
McKee had 16 points for the winners, with Tomer Ginat adding 14 points and 15 rebounds.
Joe Alexander had a double-double of 14 points and 11 boards for Holon in defeat.
Also Sunday, Bnei Herzliya defeated newly-promoted Ironi Ness Ziona 72-58. Herzliya opened a double-digit lead in the first quarter and cruised to the win. Shawn Dawson had 17 points and eight rebounds for Herzliya, with Elishay Kadir finishing with 12 points and 10 rebounds for the losers.
On Monday, Maccabi Tel Aviv goes to Hapoel Eilat and Hapoel Gilboa/Galil hosts Maccabi Ashdod.
Maccabi Tel Aviv will be looking to build on its Winner Cup triumph last week and is set to welcome back guards Norris Cole and Pierre Jackson, who didn’t play in the preseason tournament.
DeAndre Kane is still out, but is expected to be fit for Thursday’s Euroleague opener at Bamberg in Germany.
“There are always high expectations at Maccabi Tel Aviv,” said new captain Itay Segev, who is the only Maccabi player to return from last season. “This isn’t something new and we believe that this time we can meet these expectations.”