Hapoel Jerusalem got the BSL season off to a winning start on Saturday, claiming a hard-fought 82-75 victory at Maccabi Rishon Lezion.
Jerusalem showed plenty of promise after lifting the preseason Winner Cup with an impressive victory over Maccabi Tel Aviv, but struggled to find its range at the start of Saturday's game, trailing 2012 after the first period.
However, Hapoel tied the score by the break and led throughout the second half on the way to its first league win of the 2009/10 season.
"Rishon began the game well and were more focused than us," Jerusalem coach Guy Goodes said. "I made a lot of changes to try and jump-start the team and I'm happy we passed this tough test."
Tre Simmons continued his excellent form, scoring 25 points, including five of seven from three-point range.
Dijon Thompson added 16 points and nine rebounds, with Kevin Pinkney and Yuval Naimi contributing 12 and 10 points, respectively.
"We had a slow start and it was tough," Simmons said. "We missed a lot of easy shots, but we bounced back and played tough in the second half."
Jayson Wells led the hosts with 18 points, with Meir Tapiro scoring seven points and passing nine assists in his Rishon debut.
"We need to learn from this loss," new Rishon coach Effi Birenboim said. "It is not nice to lose your first home game of the season, but we must remain focused on the future."
Eight more teams will begin their BSL season on Sunday.
In the main encounter of the day, Maccabi Tel Aviv will visit Maccabi Haifa in a repeat of last year's Final Four title game.
Sunday's game will also be Tel Aviv's first in Israel since the suicide of former team manager Moni Fanan last week.
"We are focused on the game," said Tel Aviv center Yaniv Green, who knew Fanan better than most of his teammates, who only joined the club this season.
"This issue has been mulled over too much in recent days and it is time we move on."
Doron Perkins, who left Haifa for Tel Aviv in the summer, will be playing against his former team for the first time on Sunday.
"Haifa's advantage is that it is playing at home," Green said. "This is a repeat of last year's final, but only this time Perkins is on our side."
D'or Fischer is looking forward to facing American teenage sensation Jeremy Tyler.
"We are ready and excited to start the season," the Maccabi center said.
"I've heard a lot about Tyler. There has been a lot of buzz around him and I'm waiting to see what he's really like."
Also Sunday, Hapoel Holon hosts Hapoel Afula, Ironi Ramat travels to Bnei Hasharon and Barak Netanya entertains Ironi Nahariya.