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Hapoel Jerusalem is getting its act together. Dan Shamir's squad followed last week's ULEB Cup win over Siena with a dramatic 84-81 win over Ironi Ramat Gan in Sunday night's BSL clash.
The Malha Arena witnessed a close game for the first three quarters, with the hosts getting into foul trouble in the second half. But a final-quarter run, led by guards Timmy Bowers and Ed Cota, enabled Jerusalem to clinch the important victory.
"It wasn't easy," Jerusalem star Meir Tapiro commented. "We made a great start, but scored only five points in the second period. But we regained our confidence after the halftime break and got our act together. Our fans were great today and we really enjoyed their support."
Bnei Hasharon thrashed Givat Shmuel 97-85, while Maccabi Rishon Lezion easily dominated Hapoel Afula/Gilboa 76-68. A 23-point effort by Marcus Hatten helped Elitzur Ashkelon edge Ironi Nahariya 83-82.
Maccabi Tel Aviv, coming off an impressive Euroleague win at Malaga on Thursday, will be in action Sunday night against Oded Katash's Hapoel Galil Elyon-Golan. The game features former Galil star Lior Eliyahu, who is having an impressive debut season with the yellow-and-blue.
Hapoel Jerusalem 84,Ironi Ramat Gan 81
The game was played at a fast pace, with both teams scoring off fast breaks. Veteran point guard Tapiro took advantage of Ramat Gan's poor defense and connected twice from beyond the arc to give the hosts a comfortable 29-23 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Ramat Gan didn't give up and turned the tide with a series of quick baskets by Curtis McCants. The visitors led 37-29 with 4:10 left in the second quarter and even a couple of timeouts couldn't help Jerusalem, which went into halftime trailing 47-34 following a John Allen layup at the buzzer.
Jerusalem center Mario Austin collected his fourth personal foul midway through the third quarter and left his team short of options. Ramat Gan made the most of the situation, played clever percentage basketball and held a 65-57 advantage going into the final period.
But Timmy Bowers, who finished with 14 points, spurred a 8-0 run that gave Jerusalem the lead. After Ed Cota scored four straight points, the hosts led 81-72 lead with 1:17 left held on for the win.
Bnei Hasharon 97, Maccabi Givat Shmuel 85
Givat Shmuel employed an effective zone defense in the opening stages and Bnei Hasharon fell behind 30-25 at the end of the first quarter.
However, the hosts made an impressive 19-6 run in the second period to take a 46-42 halftime lead.
Bnei Hasharon produced a strong second half, which left Givat Shmuel with no chance for a comeback.
Jason Williams led the way for Bnei Hasharon with 22 points, with former NBA player Lee Nailon adding 15 points and grabbing nine rebounds.
Elitzur Ashkelon 83, Ironi Nahariya 82
After Marcus Hatten hit one of his two free throws with 14.4 seconds on the clock to give Ashkelon a one-point lead, Adam Gilchrist failed to clinch the win by missing a close-range shot.
Maccabi Rishon Lezion 76, Hapoel Afula/Gilboa 68
The hosts breezed to a 29-22 lead at the end of the fist period, with the visitors failing to contain Ryan Sydney and Reggie Moore.
Rishon's dynamic duo continued to control the tempo of the game and the team led 50-35 at halftime.
Jermaine Hall's 18 points were not enough to spoil the hosts' rhythm.
Sydney and Moore scored 24 points each for Rishon, with swingman Bryan Tolbert adding 11 points, four rebounds and five steals.