Hapoel Jerusalem (in red) takes on Hapoel Holon..
(photo credit: ODED KARNI/BSL)
Hapoel Jerusalem began life at its new arena in promising fashion on Monday night, thrashing Hapoel Holon 86-61 in the quarterfinals of the pre-season Winner Cup.
Jerusalem gave its fans plenty to look forward to in the upcoming season with a resounding victory and the supporters will already have another chance to see their new team in action in its state-of-the-art arena when Hapoel faces Hapoel Tel Aviv in the competition’s semis on Tuesday.
Tel Aviv defeated Hapoel Eilat 88-83 in the second game of the evening at the new arena. Yancy Gates had 26 points and six rebounds for Tel Aviv, which got off to a winning start under the guidance of new coach Oded Katash. Sean Evans scored 22 points for Eilat, which was guided for the first time by Dan Shamir.
“We couldn’t have asked for a better opening day for our fans,” said new Jerusalem coach Danny Franco. “This is a festive day and there was a lot of excitement surrounding this occasion.”
Franco insisted that his team still has plenty of room for improvement as it continues to prepare for next week’s Euroleague qualifiers.
Hapoel faces CEZ Nymburk of the Czech Republic in the first of three possible qualifying rounds on September 24.
“This may sound a little cocky, but we still don’t feel that ready for the season,” Franco explained. “Some of our players have only been with us for a few days. We want to play like a team but we aren’t doing so yet. We are still gelling.”
Maccabi Tel Aviv trailed throughout the first quarter of its quarterfinal against Hapoel Gilboa/Galil, but seized control in the second period on the way to a 73-58 win in Rishon Lezion. Maccabi didn’t require a special effort to book its place in the last four, with new signing Marquez Haynes impressing with a team-high 16 points.
Wayne Chism had 14 points for Gilboa.
The yellow-and-blue will play Ironi Ness Ziona in the first semifinal in Jerusalem on Tuesday.
Ness Ziona beat Maccabi Haifa 64-61 in Rishon Lezion on Monday.
After being the BSL’s dark horse last season, Ness Ziona only managed to hold on to four senior players from last term. Nevertheless, it managed to eke out a victory over last season’s runner-up on Monday to advance to the semis.
Haifa took a five-point gap (34-29) into the second half and was ahead by double- digits (55-45) entering the final 10 minutes. However, the Greens only managed six points in the fourth frame and a Preston Knowles three-pointer gave Ness Ziona a lead (62-61) it maintained until the final buzzer.
Knowles, who is Ness Ziona’s only returning foreign player, ended the game with 26 points, with Jeff Allen and Demontez Stitt scoring 18 points each for Haifa.
In Jerusalem, the hosts got off to a quick start, already building a double-figure margin (26-14) after 10 minutes. Jerusalem was especially lethal from beyond the arc and led by as many as 14 points (34-20) in the second quarter. Holon closed to within six points (39-33), but the hosts scored 10 of the final 14 points of the half to regain a comfortable lead (49-37).
A 21-4 run to start the second half capped by an Adam Ariel basket opened an unassailable gap (70-41), allowing Franco to rest his starters ahead of Tuesday’s game.
Yotam Halperin led Jerusalem with 20 points and seven rebounds, with Derwin Kitchen contributing 16 points, nine rebounds and six assists and Ariel finishing with 13 points. Last season’s BSL MVP Donta Smith had just four points in 20 minutes for Jerusalem, which shot 9-of-21 from beyond the arc.
Laurence Bowers and Jordan Taylor scored 13 points each for Holon, which gave coach Elad Hasin plenty to mull over.