(photo credit: Asaf Kliger )
Hapoel Jerusalem will enter next week's crucial BSL encounter against Maccabi Tel Aviv on the back of a nine-game winning streak after defeating Ironi Ashkelon 85-82 at Malha Arena on Saturday.
Jerusalem, which was playing without Omar Sneed and Erez Markovitch who are both injured, surged ahead in the third period and held off an Ashkelon comeback in the closing stages.
"I told my players that even though we're without two dominant players, it's no excuse to play poorly and not win," Hapoel coach Guy Goodes said.
"I'm delighted with this victory because it was a serious character test."
Timmy Bowers made up for Sneed's absence, scoring 30 points and grabbing seven rebounds. Yuval Naimi scored 18 points with Travis Watson adding nine points and 15 rebounds.
Avi Ben-Shimol led Ashkelon with a career high 20 points.
Ashkelon began the game well and led 16-15 after 10 minutes.
Naimi helped the hosts regain their composure in the second period, but Hapoel was only in front by two points at the break (38-36).
The visitors regained the lead briefly at the start of the second half (42-41), however Jerusalem raced to a 15-0 run and opened a comfortable 56-42 advantage.
Hapoel was ahead 67-53 at the end of the third quarter and despite Ashkelon's best efforts in the final five minutes held on for yet another league win.
On Sunday, Maccabi Tel Aviv faces Oded Katash and his Hapoel Galil Elyon/Gilboa team in Gan Ner.
Maccabi has won its three BSL games in January by an average 25.7 points and will be brimming with confidence after Thursday's easy Euroleague victory over Alba Berlin.
Galil has struggled with its form in the last couple of games, but still managed to edge Ashkelon last week.
Also Sunday, Ironi Nahariya hosts Maccabi Givat Shmuel, Ironi Ramat Gan visits Maccabi Haifa and Ironi Kiryat Ata will try and end a 10 game losing streak at Maccabi Rishon Lezion.
On Monday, Hapoel Holon hosts Bnei Hasharon.
In other basketball news, Bnei Hasharon's appeal to ULEB regarding the punishment it received for refusing to play against Telekom Ankara of Turkey after being chased off the court by thousands of local fans was partially accepted on Saturday.
The 50,000 fine was cut to 5,000, but the 20-0 technical defeat was not changed.
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