Hapoel Jerusalem center Richard Howell.
(photo credit: UDI ZITIAT)
Life without Glen Rice Jr. got off to a tough start for Hapoel Holon on Sunday, with Hapoel Jerusalem handing the State Cup holder an 82-75 defeat in BSL action at the Jerusalem Arena.
Holon was playing for the first time since the unceremonious departure of the league’s leading scorer. Rice, who leads the BSL with 24.3 points per game and netted the winning basket in the cup final, was released by the team shortly after last Monday’s 94-89 loss to Hapoel Gilboa/Galil, punching teammate Guy Pnini in the locker room after the two had exchanged heated words during the game.
Holon was beginning to struggle over recent weeks with Rice on its roster and dropped to a 17-7 record on Sunday following a third defeat in four games, with two of them coming at the hands of Jerusalem.
Holon is tied with Maccabi Tel Aviv for first place, with Jerusalem and Maccabi Ashdod, which made it seven straight victories with Sunday’s 85-74 triumph over Maccabi Haifa, just two games back at 15-9.
Jerusalem, which won for the fourth time in five games, had six players in double figures, with Richard Howell and Ronald Roberts leading the way with 13 points each. Jerusalem’s next game is against Maccabi Tel Aviv at Yad Eliyahu Arena next Sunday. Maccabi lost for the third time in seven BSL games on Saturday, falling 81-79 at the hands of Hapoel Gilboa/Galil.
Tu Holloway scored 21 points for Holon, which faces the red-hot Ashdod in its next game on Saturday.
“The key for us was our play on the defensive end,” said pleased Jerusalem coach Oded Katash. “We struggled on offense at stages during the game, but the players came through at the other end and this is another important win as we try and build momentum.”
Ashdod triumphed for the 13th time in 15 league games since the turn of the year, only losing to Holon and Maccabi Tel Aviv, opening a 15-point lead (43-28) at the break and remaining in control.
Young Israeli forward Nimrod Levy continued his sensational season with a double-double of 19 points and 12 rebounds.
Reginald Buckner had 14 points for Haifa, which lost for the fifth time in six games, falling to a league-worse record of 7-17, half a game behind Ironi Nahariya.
Nahariya hosts Maccabi Rishon Lezion (10-14) on Monday, with Hapoel Eilat (12-12) welcoming Ironi Ness Ziona (10-14) and Bnei Herzliya (9-15) visiting Hapoel Tel Aviv (12-12).