Maccabi Tel Aviv forward Dragan Bender.
(photo credit: DANNY MARON)
Hapoel Jerusalem and Maccabi Tel Aviv prepared for their BSL clash next week with comfortable victories on Thursday night, remaining tied at the top of the standings after improving to an 11-3 record.
Despite playing without D’or Fischer and Tony Gaffney, Jerusalem all but secured its 109-77 win at Ironi Ness Ziona with a 20-3 run to end the first quarter, opening a 19-point gap (31- 12). The margin reached 30 points after Hapoel scored 17 of the first 21 points of the second period (48-16), allowing coach Danny Franco to rest his starters ahead of the encounter with the yellow-and-blue.
Josh Duncan led Jerusalem with 21 points, with Lior Eliyahu finishing with 18 points and 12 assists and Matt Janning also scoring 18.
“We showed our superiority from the start,” said Eliyahu. “I’m happy that we knew how to make this game easy.”
Ivan Aska had 20 points for Ness Ziona, which dropped to 5-9.
Maccabi Tel Aviv led Hapoel Holon by just three points (20-17) after the first quarter at Yad Eliyahu Arena. However, it would outscore Holon 26-10 in the second frame to take a 19-point margin (46-27) into the break and never looked back, ultimately claiming a 93-75 win.
After failing to score in double digits in the first 11 BSL games of the season, 18-year-old Croatian phenom Dragan Bender scored in double figures for a third straight contest, netting a new career-high of 16 points.
“Even though we struggled a little bit in the first half, we did a good job in defense in the second half and scored a lot of easy baskets. We are really focused on the next game in Jerusalem,” said Bender, who is projected to be a lottery pick in the 2016 NBA draft, attracting NBA scouts to Yad Eliyahu on a weekly basis.
“It can put you under pressure but I try to focus on the game,” he said when asked about the interest he is generating.
Bnei Herzliya recorded a surprise 73-71 victory at Maccabi Rishon Lezion on Thursday, with Stephen Dennis netting the winning basket with 1.6 seconds remaining. Shawn Dawson missed a chance to give Rishon the lead from the line, and after missing his first six field-goal attempts in the game, Dennis scored his seventh and most important to secure the victory.
Drew Crawford had 20 points for Herzliya, which improved to 8-6, with Mark Lyons scoring 19 for Rishon, which fell to 9-4.
Also Thursday, Hapoel Eilat beat Maccabi Ashdod 82-78.
Khalif Wyatt had 23 points and nine boards for Eilat (6-8), while Diante Garrett led Ashdod with 28 points and nine rebounds.