(photo credit: ADI AVISHAI)
Hapoel Jerusalem was hoping to end its slump on Monday night, but instead it hit a new low which may very well have long-term repercussions on its season.
After getting its BSL campaign off to a club record 9-0 start, Jerusalem dropped to its fifth straight defeat over all competitions and third in a row in local league action, losing 90-88 to Maccabi Haifa at the Jerusalem Arena.
Jerusalem star Donta Smith squandered an opportunity to give his team the win with 1.8 seconds to play when he had three free-throw attempts.
However, he missed the first two and then the third on purpose, a miserable ending to an otherwise superb showing.
Smith finished with 30 points, nine assists and seven rebounds, but he might have played his last game for the club after treating the fans to an obscene gesture with his middle finger as he walked off the floor to their boos at the end of the game.
“I feel like we have lost the team,” said Jerusalem coach Danny Franco, who wouldn’t elaborate on exactly how the club plans to address Smith’s conduct.
“We are playing without a point guard due to Derwin Kitchen’s injury and we have had to move players around. But I’m not looking for excuses. This isn’t the time or the place. We need to aspire to be a lot more aggressive and not naive like tonight.”
Haifa entered Monday’s encounter on the back of five defeats over its past six games, but with two new players. Will Graves and Moran Roth came in as replacements for Americans Demontez Stitt and Jeff Allen after they were cut from the team following their arrest for being in possession of marijuana.
Roth had 11 points in less than seven minutes before being ejected for flopping, while Graves had seven points in 20 minutes.
However, the star of the team remains Israeli sharp-shooter Dagan Yavzuri, who finished with 26 points, hitting 7-of-9 on three-point attempts. Rene Rougeau added 16 points and seven rebounds for Haifa (5-8), which scored 15-of-21 shots (71%) from beyond the arc.
“This is a great win,” said Yavzuri, who also had six assists. “We are going through changes, but we have never lacked heart. We will make a few more small adjustments and we will be fine. I’m delighted because we recorded a good win, but continuity is the name of the game.”
A Yavzuri three gave Haifa a five-point gap (86-81) with 1:35 minutes to play, but Smith brought Jerusalem within a single point (89-88) with 13 seconds remaining.
However, instead of ending the night as a hero he finished it as a villain.
Also Monday, Hapoel Eilat (6-7) claimed its fourth win from the past five games, beating Hapoel Gilboa/Galil (5-8) 101-83.
Khalif Wyatt had 20 points for Eilat, which was in control from start to finish. Alex Young led Gilboa with 15 points.
Maccabi Rishon Lezion improved to 9-4 on Monday with an easy 84-63 victory over Maccabi Ashdod (3-10).
Jackie Carmichael led five Rishon players in double figures with 17 points and nine rebounds, while James Nunally had 14 points for Ashdod.