Hapoel Jerusalem’s Donta Smith (L) and Maccabi Tel Aviv’s Joe Alexander.
(photo credit: ADI AVISHAI)
Hapoel Jerusalem turned its final regular season showdown against Maccabi Tel Aviv into a statement game on Monday night, claiming a resounding 93-77 victory at Yad Eliyahu Arena to hand the yellowand- blue its first defeat in local action in more than four months.
Maccabi entered the game on the back of a 17-game BSL winning streak and also outplayed Jerusalem in the State Cup final last month.
However, it completely capitulated on Monday, entering the half-time interval down by 20 points (55-35) and never threatening to mount a comeback.
Both teams were without key players on Monday, with Maccabi missing Sofoklis Schortsanitis as well as Sylven Landesberg.
Jerusalem was without Joseph Jones, Derwin Kitchen and Adam Ariel, but coped far better with a short-handed roster, handing Maccabi just its third defeat of the BSL campaign.
Bar Timor led Jerusalem with a careerhigh tying 21 points and six assists, with Bracey Wright adding 20 points, five rebounds and five assists.
Jerusalem improved to 17-7 with its seventh win from the past eight games, cutting the gap from Maccabi (21-3) to four games.
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“We played like a team,” said Hapoel coach Danny Franco. “Our target is to return here for the playoff finals at the end of the season.”
Devin Smith was the only Maccabi player who showed up on Monday, finishing with 31 points and nine rebounds in 29 minutes.
“All our problems were clear for all to see in this game,” said Maccabi coach Guy Goodes, whose team visits Real Madrid in Euroleague action on Friday. “Fatigue and injuries took their toll, but these losses can happen and we need to move forward.”
It took Maccabi more than three-and-ahalf minutes to register its first points of the night in what proved to be a foreboding start to a dismal first half.
The hosts lacked intensity and desire, allowing Jerusalem to dictate its will and score with ease, with Wright’s three-pointer with one minute to play in the first half opening a 20-point margin (53-33).
Maccabi had Smith to thank for keeping it in the game, with the forward’s 17 firsthalf points ensuring the hosts maintained a hope of fighting back after the break.
Maccabi scored the first five points of the second half, but came no closer than 14 points on the way to an embarrassing home loss.
A couple of hours before the start of the game, Jerusalem announced the signing of forward Deon Thompson until the end of this season. The 26-year-old, who won an NCAA championship with the University of North Carolina in 2009, joins from China’s Liaoning Flying Leopards, and played in the Euroleague in the previous three seasons at Olimpija Ljubljana, Alba Berlin and Bayern Munich.
Also Monday, Maccabi Haifa improved to 11-13 with its third straight victory, beating Maccabi Rishon Lezion 77-76 at Romema Arena.
Rishon was the more composed team in the closing stages of the first half, opening an eight-point gap (47-39). Haifa outscored the visitors 24-12 in the third quarter to take a four-point edge (63-59) into the final 10 minutes and the contest wasn’t decided until the final buzzer.
Rishon’s Tony Younger could have tied the game from the free-throw line with 5.2 seconds to play, but he missed his second attempt. At the buzzer Nitzan Hanochi’s three-point shot only hit the rim and Haifa survived.
Ike Ofoegbu led Haifa with 18 points and eight rebounds, with Moran Roth adding 16 points and five assists.
Dominique Johnson had 17 points for Rishon, which fell to 12-12 with its third consecutive loss Elsewhere, Meir Tapiro set a new appearance record for a player in the top flight of Israeli basketball on Sunday.
The guard, who will celebrate his 40th birthday later this month and made his debut with Hapoel Tel Aviv in the 1994/95 season, registered his 470th appearance in Ironi Ness Ziona’s tight defeat to Bnei Herzliya on Sunday, breaking the record previously held by Mickey Berkowitz.
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