Hapoel Jerusalem got its BSL title defense off to a winning start on Sunday night, surging past Maccabi Ashdod in the second half to claim a 91-76 win at the Jerusalem Arena.
Jerusalem won just one of six games in the preseason and trailed throughout the first half on Sunday, with the score still tied midway through the third period. However, Hapoel would hold Ashdod to just eight points in the next nine minutes while scoring 30 to build an unassailable lead.
Donta Smith led the way for the defending champion with 22 points, eight rebounds and four assists. Yotam Halperin added 18 points, while new signing E.J. Rowland contributed 14.
Americans Isaiah Swann and Diante Garrett had 17 points each for Ashdod.
“We tried to come out aggressive in the first game of the season and we came out a little too hyped,” said Smith. “But we toughed down in the second half and got some stops and came out with the win.”
Sunday’s win will also help boost Jerusalem’s confidence ahead of its Eurocup opener against Nizhny Novgorod in Russia on Wednesday.