Hapoel Gilboa/Galil guard J’Covan Brown drives to the basket during last night’s 85-78 road win over Hapoel Jerusalem in Game 1 of their BSL quarterfinal series.
(photo credit: DANNY MARON)
Hapoel Jerusalem’s BSL title defense suffered an expected setback on Wednesday night, with Hapoel Gilboa/Galil stunning the reigning champion 85-78 on the road to take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-five quarterfinal series.
Hapoel Holon also took a 1-0 advantage on Wednesday, beating Hapoel Eilat 89-83.
Gilboa controlled the contest in Jerusalem and continued its surprise season with arguably its biggest win to date. Gilboa hosts Game 2 at Gan Ner Arena on Friday and another victory would leave Jerusalem on the ropes.
J’Covan Brown scored 22 points, with Zach LeDay also netting 22, while grabbing 10 rebounds. Israeli forward Tal Karples added a career-high 16 points.
Richard Howell scored 17 points for Jerusalem, which shot 6-of-24 from three-point range (25%). Jerusalem will try and draw some encouragement from the fact that it also lost its playoff opener at home last season against Ironi Nahariya, but ultimately won the series and went on to claim the championship.
Gilboa scored seven of the final eight points of the first quarter to open an eight-point cushion (25-17). Jerusalem remained within striking distance, but five straight Gilboa points to end the first half opened a double-digit gap (49-39). The visitors maintained the initiative throughout the second half and LeDay’s dunk on the way to a three-point play with 6:25 minutes remaining opened a 13-point margin (73-60) Jerusalem was never close to erasing.
Holon lost its final regular season game, but it had previously won five in a row to finally find its rhythm after initially struggling following Glen Rice Jr’s departure. Holon pulled ahead at the end of the first quarter on Wednesday to open an eight-point gap (23-15) and never lost the lead. The visitors closed within touching distance on several occasions in the second half, but couldn’t complete a comeback.
Jordan Hamilton, who replaced Rice, scored 28 points, with Tu Holloway adding 23 points and Joe Alexander scoring 20. Jordan Loyd netted 24 points for Eilat, which hosts Game 2 on Friday.
“This was a good and strong playoff game,” said Holon coach Dan Shamir, whose team entered the playoffs as the No. 1 seed last season only to be stunned by Maccabi Haifa in the quarterfinals. “We are very happy that we won our first game at home, but we all know, especially after what happened to us last season, that it is only going to get more difficult now. We still have a lot of work to do. We have taken the first step, but we need to take two more.”
Eilat coach Sharon Drucker had no complaints.
“They deserved to win,” he said. “They controlled the game and every time we came close we couldn’t get stops or score at the other end. You can’t win in Holon when you allow 89 points.”
Playoff action continues on Thursday. Ironi Ness Ziona looks to level its series against Maccabi Tel Aviv when it hosts the yellow-and-blue after losing Game 1 by 32 points. Hapoel Tel Aviv aims to bounce back from a painful overtime road loss in the opener when it hosts Maccabi Ashdod in Game 2 at the Drive-In Arena. Hapoel needs a home win to boost its hopes of winning a first playoff series since 2004/05, a streak of six straight series.
While Maccabi has lost in the Final Four semifinals in each of the previous three seasons, since 2011 it has been dominant in the quarterfinal playoffs. Maccabi has recorded sweeps in six of its seven series, with its only loss coming to Hapoel Gilboa/Galil in Game 2 of the 2013/14 series it went on to win 3-1.Maccabi enters the game on the back of a five-game BSL winning streak, its longest of the season
. Ness Ziona’s first goal is to at least get one win against Maccabi, but if it does that it will already be dreaming of becoming just the second No. 8 seed in BSL playoff history to upset a top seed, joining last season’s Maccabi Haifa.