It is not often that a visiting player receives a standing ovation at Malha Arena.
However, Dagan Yavzuri fully deserved the honor on Sunday night, scoring a career-high 36 points to lead Maccabi Haifa to a 99-93 victory over Hapoel Jerusalem.
Yavzuri set a new season-high in the BSL and recorded the most points for an Israeli player since the 2000/01 campaign, hitting 13-of-17 field-goal attempts, including seven three-pointers.
“The most important thing is that we won,” said the modest Yavzuri. “As soon as things began to flow I felt that every shot would go in.”
Moran Roth added 21 points for Haifa (15-7), which trailed by as many as 13 points in the first half. Ronald Dupree scored 19 points for Jerusalem (17-5), which lost for the second time in three BSL games after winning its previous 13 encounters.
Jerusalem also saw its ninegame BSL winning streak at Malha snapped, just three days before it hosts Ulm of Germany in the decisive second leg of the Eurocup last 16.
Haifa was completely helpless in the first quarter, with Jerusalem hitting 12-of-13 shots to open a 30-17 margin.
However, the visitors closed to within four points by the break (49-45) and never lost control after outscoring Hapoel 28-15 in the third frame to take a ninepoint cushion (73-64) into the final 10 minutes.
Muli Katzurin’s first game as Bnei Herzliya (6-16) coach went nothing like he hoped for on Sunday, with his team losing 71-64 at Hapoel Gilboa/Galil (9-13).
Katzurin, who last coached in the Israeli league in 1999, replaced Effi Birenboim as Bnei Herzliya’s coach last week after the latter surprisingly resigned following the team’s ninth defeat in 10 games.
However, Herzliya continued its losing ways with Katzurin at the helm in Gan Ner, never falling more than nine points behind Gilboa but nevertheless trailing throughout almost the entire second half on the way to yet another defeat.
Gerald Robinson led Gilboa with 20 points, while Michael Umeh had 21 points for Herzliya.
Katzurin can at least console himself in the knowledge that he remains tied with Maccabi Rishon Lezion (6-16) after the latter lost 79-70 at Hapoel Holon (11-11) on Sunday.
A 13-0 run early in the fourth period opened a 15-point gap (73- 58) and clinched the victory for Holon, while further complicating Rishon’s situation.
Scottie Reynolds had 21 points for Holon, with Davin White scoring 19 points for Rishon, which lost its fourth straight game.
On Monday, Maccabi Tel Aviv (17-4) welcomes Barak Netanya (7-14) and the battle for the final place in the top four will be decided when Hapoel Tel Aviv (13-8) hosts Maccabi Ashdod (4-17) and Ironi Ness Ziona (12-9) faces Hapoel Eilat (12-9).
Hapoel Tel Aviv will finish the regular season in the top four as long as it beats Ashdod or Ness Ziona loses to Eilat. A Ness Ziona victory combined with a home loss for Tel Aviv will see the former leapfrog into fourth place.