Hapoel Jerusalem leapfrogged Maccabi Tel Aviv into first place in the BSL standings with an historic 93-65 victory over the yellow-andblue at Nokia Arena on Sunday night, proving once and for all that it is a true challenger for the championship this season, and possibly even the favorite for the league title.
Just last month, Maccabi handed Jerusalem a humbling 93-71 defeat at Nokia. However, Hapoel outplayed the hosts almost from the first whistle on Sunday and equaled the largest win ever for a team at Nokia in league action, with Hapoel Galil Elyon also defeating the yellow-and-blue by 28 points in the 1992/93 season before going on to win the league title.
After a tight first five minutes, Jerusalem seized control, led by Yotam Halperin. The former Maccabi guard had 11 points in the first period, guiding the team to a 27-19 margin. Maccabi couldn’t match Jerusalem’s intensity in the second quarter either, with Halperin ending the first half with 20 points and Hapoel taking a 19-point cushion (53-34) into the break.
Amazingly, Maccabi gave up without a fight in the second half, with Jerusalem piling the misery on its bitter rival and moving into pole position in the battle for the No. 1 seed in the playoffs.
Halperin led all scorers, including six Hapoel players in double figures, with 20 points, also registering six assists and five rebounds.
Bracey Wright added 14 points and Lior Eliyahu scored 13, while Josh Duncan, Art Parakhouski and Derwin Kitchen contributed 12 points each for Jerusalem, which is sure to enter Wednesday’s Eurocup quarterfinal second leg at Nizhny Novgorod in high spirits.
“To beat Maccabi by 28 points at Nokia Arena is something that happens maybe once in a career,” said Halperin. “Everyone on the team deserves a lot of credit. A lot of things have to happen in order to win here by such a margin.”
Ricky Hickman had 18 points for Maccabi, which welcomes Spanish powerhouse Real Madrid in a daunting Euroleague showdown on Thursday.
“This is a painful defeat,” said Maccabi coach David Blatt. “I’m going to have to find a way to lift the players.”
Hapoel Tel Aviv (15-9) climbed up to third place at the expense of Maccabi Haifa (15-9) on Sunday, beating the Greens 88-85 at Hadar Yosef Arena.
Hapoel dominated the first half and took a 15-point gap (47-32) into the break after a buzzer-beating three-pointer by youngster Golan Got.
However, Haifa came out of the interval firing on all cylinders and took an 81-75 advantage with just over two minutes to play. But Got kept Hapoel in the chase with a triple and his three-point play with 28 seconds remaining gave the Reds a one-point edge (86-85) and a sweet victory.
Carlon Brown led Hapoel with 27 points, with Raviv Limonad adding 20 points, eight rebounds and eight assists while the 19-yearold Got scored a career-high 12.
Donta Smith had 29 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds for Haifa, with Brian Randle finishing with 21 points.
Also Sunday, Maccabi Ashdod (5-19) beat Barak Netanya (7-17) 96-88 behind 25 points from Marcus Dove, while Deshawn Sims scored 23 points for Hapoel Gilboa/ Galil (11-13) in its 82-71 win at Maccabi Rishon Lezion (7-17).