Sharon Druker, Hapoel Jerusalem coach.
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Hapoel Jerusalem took a 1-0 lead in its best-of-five BSL quarterfinal playoff
series against Hapoel Holon with a 78-73 victory at Malha Arena on Sunday night,
while Ironi Ashkelon snatched home-court advantage from Maccabi Rishon Lezion
with a surprise 64-63 road win.
Only Ron Lewis’s buzzerbeating
three-pointer separated Jerusalem and Holon after an extremely tight first half,
with the visitors taking a 43-40 lead into the break.
Holon raced into a
sevenpoint advantage early in the second half, but the hosts never lost touch
and trailed by just four points (61-57) with 10 minutes to play.
would turn on an 8-0 Jerusalem run early in the fourth frame (67-64), with the
hosts’ defensive play making the difference.
With just over two minutes
left to play, Holon missed three shots from beyond the arc in a single
possession before Yuval Naimi hit his second straight triple at the other end to
open a sevenpoint gap (73-66) from which the visitors could not come
“This was a battle as we expected,” said Jerusalem coach Sharon
Drucker. “We had to be patient, but towards the end of the game we improved our
defensive play significantly and that made all the difference.”
Strawberry led Jerusalem with 17 points, while Naimi and Ramel Bradley scored 14
points each for Hapoel, which was outrebounded 41-33, but committed six fewer
turnovers than Holon (8 to 14).
Lewis had 24 points for Holon, which also
got 13 points each from Moran Rot and Tasmin Mitchell.
“We will have to
study this loss very well to find a way to defeat Jerusalem in Game 2 next
week,” said Holon coach Dan Shamir.
In Rishon, the hosts held a
seven-point lead after holding Ashkelon to just eight points in the first
quarter and took a double-digit margin (31-21) into the break.
Ashkelon tied the score at 32-32 with a 13-1 surge and there would be little to
separate the teams after that.
Derwin Kitchen’s basket with 25 seconds to
play gave Rishon the edge (63-62), but Ashkelon’s Dwayne Mitchell kept his cool
from the free throw line with 5.8 remaining and Joe Crawford’s miss at the
buzzer gave the visitors a crucial win ahead of Game 2 in Ashkelon next
Tony Skinn had 15 points for Ashkelon, with Kitchen netting 12 for
The playoffs continue on Monday when Hapoel Gilboa/Galil hosts
Maccabi Ashdod in Game 1 of the series between the No. 2 and No. 7
The remaining playoff series will get underway on Wednesday when
Maccabi Tel Aviv (1) welcomes BC Habika’a (8) to Nokia Arena.
will be expecting to enter the BSL playoffs fresh off winning its second title
of the season, with the yellow-andblue to face Cedevita Zagreb at Nokia in the
Adriatic League final on Monday night.
Maccabi sailed to an 82-60 win in
its Final Four semifinal against Buducnost on Saturday, while Cedevita beat
Partizan Belgrade of Serbia 68-56.
Tel Aviv lost in the Adriatic League
final the only other time it took part in the competition in the 2002/03 season
and will not be taking anything for granted despite defeating Cedevita in both
regular season meetings.
The Serbians, who ended the regular season
standings in second place with a 19-7 record, gave Maccabi a real run for its
money both home (83-77) and away (96-89) and will be looking, at the very least,
to do so once more on Monday night.
“Cedevita has played well throughout
the season and clearly this game will be a challenge for us,” said Maccabi coach
David Blatt. “We respect every opponent and anything can happen in this game. We
will have to be at our best to win.”