Hapoel Jerusalem center Amar’e Stoudemire goes up for two of his game-high 24 points over Maccabi Tel Aviv’s Colton Iverson during last night’s 74-63 win at the Jerusalem Arena..
(photo credit: DANNY MARON)
A dominant second half by Amar’e Stoudemire gave Hapoel Jerusalem a sweet 74-63 victory over arch-rival Maccabi Tel Aviv at the Jerusalem Arena on Sunday night, breathing new life into the race for first place in the BSL standings.
Maccabi took a three-point lead into the break (32-29), but after getting into foul trouble in the first half, Stoudemire hit the ground running in the third quarter, scoring 18 of his gamehigh 24 points in the second half to give Jerusalem the triumph.
Maccabi still owns the best record in the BSL at 13-4, but Hapoel closed within two-anda- half games, improving to 11-7.
“We knew how important this game was for us tonight,” said Stoudemire. “We came out with the focus we needed and got the job done.”
The team that finishes the regular season in first place will decide if the Final Four takes place in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem.
Curtis Jerrells added 20 points and eight rebounds for Jerusalem, which won for the 10th time in 12 games over all competitions. Guy Pnini had 17 points for Maccabi, which dropped to its sixth defeat in 10 games over all competitions.
With Maccabi having just nine senior players on Sunday, and only one true big man in Colton Iverson, Jerusalem immediately looked to attack the yellow-andblue under the basket.
Maccabi cut Sonny Weems last week on the back of the release of center Maik Zirbers and lost Joe Alexander to a one-game suspension after he elbowed Adam Ariel during the win over Maccabi Ashdod last week.
Stoudemire drew two quick fouls from Iverson, but also picked up two fouls and it was Maccabi which got off to the better start.
Both teams looked edgy to start the night, combining for 2-of-20 from the field to begin the game. The visitors were the first to find their range, taking a 17-10 lead into the second quarter and opening a double-digit margin (20-10) after Andrew Goudelock opened the second frame with a three-pointer.
Jerusalem never lost touch, and despite a poor first half, trailed by only three points (32- 29) at the break.
Seven straight points by Goudelock kept Maccabi in front at the start of the second half, but Hapoel wouldn’t be held back for long, with a Stoudemire dunk with just over two minutes to play in the third quarter giving the hosts their first lead (50-49) since early in the first period.
Jerusalem remained in control until the final buzzer, with Stoudemire scoring 10 points in the third quarter alone to give Hapoel a five-point cushion (54- 49) with 10 minutes to play.
Jerusalem found separation with a 13-2 run to clinch the win on a Stoudemire dunk with two minutes to play.
Elsewhere, Hapoel Holon received the news it was dreading when star guard Khalif Wyatt was diagnosed with a tear in his knee ligaments, ruling him out until the end of the season. Wyatt leads the BSL in scoring and was one of the main reasons the team has been one of the season’s pleasant surprises