Hapoel Jerusalem forward Donta Smith goes up for a dunk in a game against Maccabi Ashdod.
(photo credit: DANNY MARON)
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.
Jerusalem’s preseason struggles continued in the first quarter on Sunday, with Ashdod racing to an 11-2 lead. Swann’s three-pointer took the gap to double digits (20-10) and Ashdod led by seven points (25-18) after 10 minutes.
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After going scoreless in the first period, Halperin caught fire in the second frame, netting three triples in the first five minutes to tie the score at 37-37.
Ashdod still took a threepoint edge (48-45) into the second half, but it wouldn’t be long before Jerusalem seized the initiative. Hapoel scored 13 of the final 19 points of the quarter to open a seven-point margin (68-61) before running riot at the start of the fourth. A 17-2 run to begin the frame rendered the final minutes as garbage time and gave Jerusalem its first win of the new campaign.
Six more teams will begin their BSL campaigns on Monday.
Last season’s finalist Hapoel Eilat looks to build on its surprise success when it visits Maccabi Rishon Lezion.
“We are facing a very tough game, but we feel good and we are excited ahead of this game,” said Eilat coach Arik Shivek. “We understand the importance of this contest and we are hoping for a good season in which we can at least repeat what we achieved last season.”
Only three Rishon players are back for another campaign under coach Sharon Drucker, but among them is rising star Shawn Dawson. The 22-yearold Israeli guard averaged 21.1 points and 7.4 rebounds in last season’s playoffs and is aiming to continue his progress in the hope of being selected in next year’s NBA draft.
Hapoel Holon hosts Bnei Herzliya on Monday in a game between two teams which underwent a complete overhaul during the summer. Also Monday, Hapoel Tel Aviv goes to Ironi Ness Ziona.
Maccabi Haifa hosts Ironi Nahariya on Friday after the Greens return from their NBA tour. Haifa lost 97-84 to the Memphis Grizzles last Thursday and completed its tour when it played the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday night.
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