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Bnei Hasharon won its fifth straight BSL game and strengthened its hold onto second place on Sunday night by defeating visiting Hapoel Galil Elyon 90-83 in Matchday 10.
Bnei Hasharon suffered no lasting effects from its lopsided loss to Hapoel Jerusalem in the State Cup final on Thursday and held the lead for the entire game.
Galil Elyon trailed by as many as 14 points in the second quarter but, despite managing to tie the game with five minutes to go, failed to follow-through on the comeback bid, losing for the third time in its last four games.
The hosts were once again led by Lee Nailon, who scored 27 points, but it was Cookie Belcher who played the most significant role in his club's victory. Belcher scored 13 of his 15 points in the final period and replaced Nailon as the team's go-to-guy after the American sharpshooter fouled out of the game with three-and-a-half minutes to play.
"I was struggling for the entire game, but I knew I had to come up with the goods after Nailon fouled out," Belcher said. "We needed this victory to keep our heads up high after the embarrassing loss to Jerusalem."
Bnei Hasharon took advantage of numerous Galil Elyon turnovers at the start of the game and five straight points by Nailon gave the club a 23-9 lead.
Despite Chester Simmons's (31 points) buzzer-beating basket at the end of the period, the hosts were comfortably ahead 29-17 after 10 minutes.
A 14-6 run by Hapoel at the start of the second quarter cut the lead to a mere four points, as Bnei Hasharon was unable to slow down Simmons.
Nailon gave his team a double-digit advantage (43-33) once more with three minutes remaining in the half, but six straight Bnei Hasharon points kept the score manageable and Bnei Hasharon went into halftime with a 45-41 lead.
The hosts maintained their slender margin at the start of the second half but were unsuccessful in opening a substantial lead. Nailon's turnaround jumper gave the team a 63-52 advantage, but an 8-0 run by Galil Elyon to end the period ensured a tight final 10 minutes.
The visitors tied the game at 72-72 midway through the fourth quarter and Hapoel seemed to be in the driver's seat after Nailon left the game with five fouls. However, clutch scoring by Belcher secured the victory for the hosts and sent Galil home from Herzliya disappointed.
The sixth and remaining game of Matchday 10 between Hapoel Jerusalem and Maccabi Tel Aviv was postponed to March 29 because of Jerusalem's ULEB Cup game against BK Ventspils on Tuesday evening.
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