Despite entering the season with new owners, a new coach and new players, some
things seem to never change at Hapoel Jerusalem.
Hapoel showed promising
signs in the pre-season Winner Cup last week, giving Maccabi Tel Aviv a run for
its money before succumbing in the final.
Maccabi Ashdod, meanwhile,
looked to be in real trouble after some discouraging performances in the lead-up
to the season.
However, a 17-4 run in the closing minutes saw Ashdod
record a stunning 83-80 win at Malha Arena on Sunday, with Austin Freeman
scoring 11 straight points to end the game and Jerusalem choking in what has
become typical fashion in recent seasons.
“I’m definitely disappointed,”
said Jerusalem’s new coach Brad Greenberg.
“[Ashdod] played a terrific
game and they made clutch shots. But one game isn’t going to determine the
Earlier Sunday, Maccabi Rishon Lezion, which replaced its coach
just last week, won at newly promoted Ironi Ness Ziona 86-77 and Hapoel Eilat
defeated Hapoel Gilboa/Galil 80-76.
At Malha, the lead went back-andforth
throughout the first half, but Jerusalem still seemed to be in control with a
45-42 advantage at the break.
Ronald Dupree’s basket took Hapoel’s margin
to eight points (74-66) midway through the fourth quarter, but Ashdod clawed its
way back just when it seemed that the hosts had all but secured the
Freeman carried Ashdod on his shoulders, giving the visitors
their first lead of the fourth period (77-76) with 1:27 minutes to play before
hitting two consecutive three-pointers, the second of which with 13 seconds
remaining, to shock Malha.
Freeman ended the night with 22 points, with
Kenny Hayes scoring 16.
“I had chances and I took them,” explained
Freeman. “I believe in the team. We stuck together when times got tough and we
got the win.”
Dupree and Elishay Kadir had 17 points each for Jerusalem,
while Elishay Kadir and youngster Adam Arial scored 14 points
Rishon’s rough off-season seemed to be taking its toll in the first
quarter at Ness Ziona, with the hosts opening a five-point gap (20-15) after the
first 10 minutes.
However, Ness Ziona would take almost seven minutes to
score its next point, with Rishon racing to a stunning 23-0 run to open an
18-point margin (38-20).
The visitors still held a 15-point lead (43- 28)
at halftime after outscoring Ness Ziona 28-8 in the second period, but the hosts
fought back and closed to within just four points (63-59) early in the final
However, Rishon, guided for the first time by Matan Harush
following Roni Bosani’s resignation last week, would score the next nine points
to reestablish a double-digit cushion (72-59) and secure its first victory in
Promising 19-year-old Israeli guard Shawn Dowson led Rishon with
20 points and five rebounds, while veterans Ricardo Marsh and Dror Hagag added
18 and 16 points, respectively.
Tyler Honeycutt had 26 points and 13
boards for Ness Ziona, with Tal Dan scoring 15 points.
Eilat was forced
to toil far more than expected to overcome Gilboa in Gan Ner.
Gilboa run saw the hosts seize the initiative (65-63) early in the fourth
quarter, but Eilat would go on an 8-0 surge at a crucial moment to move back in
front (75-71) for good.
Afik Nissim led Eilat with 20 points and seven
assists, with Christian Watford scoring 17 points and Kevin Palmer and Terrence
Roderick contributing 14 points each.
Rick Jackson had 17 points and nine
rebounds for Gilboa.
On Monday, Maccabi Tel Aviv visits Hapoel Holon
while Hapoel Tel Aviv hosts Bnei Herzliya.
Maccabi will rest Devin Smith
ahead of its Euroleague opener at Laboral Vitoria on Thursday, with David Blu
set to make his return after one season away from the court.
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