Hapoel's Lior Eliyahu (R) and Yotam Halperin (L) 370.
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Hapoel Jerusalem hosts Maccabi Tel Aviv at Malha Arena on Monday night in a BSL showdown bursting with country- wide interest and emotion.
Both Jerusalem and Maccabi enter the game at 5-3, but the encounter will be about so much more than records and results.
Perhaps the biggest storyline of the night will be Lior Eliyahu’s first meeting with Maccabi since leaving the club in acrimonious fashion during the summer.
Maccabi activated a clause in Eliyahu’s contract that allowed the club to release the forward with two years still remaining on his deal.
Tel Aviv presented the 28-year-old with a reduced offer, but the offended Eliyahu turned it down, and after failing to receive the deal he had hoped for from abroad, he ultimately signed a three-year contract with Jerusalem two weeks ago.
Despite joining Jerusalem a month into the season, Eliyahu has looked relatively sharp, registering 11 points and 11 rebounds in 36 minutes in the 75-70 BSL win at Hapoel Tel Aviv last week.
The game will also see Yotam Halperin face Maccabi for the first time as a Jerusalem player. The guard was booed when he played in Tel Aviv as an Olympiacos player.
Hapoel will be targeting its sixth victory in its past seven league games, while Maccabi, which will be without injured captain Shawn James, hopes to gather momentum after last week’s dramatic victory over Hapoel Eilat.
Tel Aviv is off to its worst ever start in local action, with three of its five wins so far also coming by four points or less, including last week’s 83-79 triumph against Eilat.
Also Monday, Hapoel Tel Aviv visits Barak Netanya.
On Sunday, a Meir Tapiro buzzer-beater capped a memorable comeback for Ironi Ness Ziona (6-3) at Maccabi Ashdod (2-7).
Ness Ziona trailed by as many as 29 points (65-36) early in the third quarter, but Tapiro’s three-pointer with 12 seconds to play forced overtime (92-92) and the 38- year-old’s jumper as time expired clinched an unforgettable 103-101 overtime victory for the surprise package of the season.
Tyler Honeycutt had 23 points and 13 rebounds for Ness Ziona, with Diamon Simpson adding a rare double-double of 22 points and 20 boards and Mitchell Watt finishing with 22 points and 10 rebounds. Tapiro ended the night with 19 points and eight assists.
Xavier Silas scored 26 points for Ashdod, with Zack Rosen adding 25 points, including seven triples.
Maccabi Haifa (6-3) suffered its first home loss of the season in local action on Sunday, falling 79-76 at the hands of Hapoel Gilboa/Galil (4-5).
Rick Jackson had 25 points and eight rebounds for Giboa, which held its composure the better of the two teams in the final minutes.
Brian Randle finished with 17 points and 12 rebounds for Haifa, which was playing its third game in five days and also had Wednesday’s crucial Eurocup encounter versus VEF Riga on its mind.
A Shawn Dowson three-pointer with 24 seconds to play gave Maccabi Rishon Lezion (3-6) a surprise 72-69 win at Hapoel Eilat (5-4) on Sunday. Tasmin Mitchell had 17 points for Rishon, while Yancy Gates led Eilat with 19 points.
Also Sunday, Bnei Herzliya (4-5) crushed Hapoel Holon (4-4) 81-61.
Ndudi Ebi and Dwayne Broyles had 16 points each for Herzliya, which secured the win thanks to a 15-2 run to end the third period (61-39).
Laurence Bowers had 17 points and 10 rebounds for Holon.