Hapoel Jerusalem survived a late scare to move into a 1-0 lead over Hapoel Holon in the BSL best-of-five quarterfinals on Thursday night, while Hapoel Eilat snatched home-court advantage away from Hapoel Tel Aviv with an emphatic win at Hadar Yosef Arena.
No. 2 seed Jerusalem was given a real run for its money by Holon (7) before eking out an 89-83 victory at Malha Arena.
After taking a five-point advantage (52- 47) into the break at Hadar Yosef, Eilat outscored Hapoel 27-10 in the third period, ultimately cruising to a 98-82 win.
Terrico White led five Eilat players in double-figures with 22 points, with Carlon Brown scoring 27 points for Hapoel, which will hope to bounce back in Game 2 next Thursday in Israel’s southernmost city.
An up-tempo first half at Malha saw Holon take a one-point edge (51-50) into the second half. However, Jerusalem seized control after the break thanks to its improved defensive play, holding the visitors to 16 points in both the third and fourth quarters.
Bracey Wright’s basket to end the third period gave Jerusalem a seven-point gap (74-67), which reached nine points after the hosts scored the first two points of the final frame.
However, an 8-0 run, capped by a Shlomi Harush three-pointer, brought Holon back within a single point (82-81) with two minutes to play. Holon had a chance to complete its comeback with 25 seconds remaining, but Laurence Bowers missed his attempt from beyond the arc with Jerusalem ahead by two points (85-83) and the hosts scored the final four points of the night from the line to take a 1-0 lead.
Wright led Jerusalem with 24 points, with Yotam Halperin scoring 18 points and Josh Duncan finishing with 14 points.
Bowers had 21 points for Holon, which will be aiming to level the series when it hosts Game 2 next Thursday.
“They came out really intense,” said Wright. “In the first half we couldn’t match them. They outplayed us. But we closed out strong and we got away with this one.”
The other two quarterfinal series both tip off on Saturday.
Top seed Maccabi Tel Aviv hosts Hapoel Gilboa/Galil (8) at Nokia Arena, while defending champion Maccabi Haifa (3) welcomes Ironi Ness Ziona (6) to Romema Arena.