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(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Hapoel Jerusalem rebounded from its midweek ULEB Cup exit by defeating Maccabi Givat Shmuel 97-78 in the BSL Matchday 14 opener on Saturday night.
A 27-5 Jerusalem run in seven first-half minutes killed off any hope Givat Shmuel had of pulling off a surprise and helped Hapoel to its ninth victory in league play.
Hapoel was led by Mario Austin, who scored 23 points and took seven rebounds in just 26 minutes of play. Boo Davis was Maccabi's leading scorer with 24 points, and Jason Straight added 23 points.
After a tight start, Davis's three-point play with four minutes remaining in the first period gave Givat Shmuel a 16-11 lead.
A 14-3 run by Jerusalem to end the quarter, which was capped by a Timmy Bowers dunk, turned the game on its head and Jerusalem was ahead 25-19 after 10 minutes.
Hapoel scored undisturbed in the beginning of the second period, as well, and 10 more unanswered points gave it a comfortable 35-21 lead.
However, Givat Shmuel answered with a run of its own, with Davis's basket and foul shot bringing his side to within 38-33.
Two successful free throws by Austin broke Maccabi's run and Hapoel scored 12 of the last 18 points of the half to take a 50-39 lead into the break.
Givat Shmuel failed to cut into the margin in the third period and Hapoel continued to hold a secure lead. Guy Pnini's buzzer-beating three-pointer gave Jerusalem a 77-55 advantage at the end of the quarter and the final 10 minutes were meaningless.
The remaining four games of Matchday 14 will be played on Sunday night, with Maccabi Tel Aviv visiting Ironi Nahariya in the most intriguing matchup.
Maccabi has a perfect 12-0 record in league play, but comes into the game after losing by 21 points to Tau Vitoria in the Euroleague on Wednesday.
Nahariya only won for the second time in seven games in the BSL last week and will try to win consecutive games in the league for the first time since November.
Bnei Hasharon will look to strengthen its hold on second place on Sunday when it hosts Elitzur Ashkelon. Bnei Hasharon has lost its last three BSL games, but will face an Ashkelon team that hasn't won in four games.
Ironi Ramat Gan hosts Maccabi Rishon Lezion and Hapoel Galil Elyon visits Hapoel Afula/Gilboa, with all four teams entering their games with a 5-8 record.
Either Ramat Gan or Rishon will end its two-game losing streak on Sunday, with the hosts coming into the game with a psychological edge after beating Maccabi 74-68 in the clubs' first meeting this season.
Despite recording five victories so far this season, Afula/Gilboa will be aiming for its first winning streak of its debut BSL season on Sunday, but will come up against a resurgent Galil, which has won three of its last five games.
Saturday's results: Hapoel Jerusalem 97, Maccabi Givat Shmuel 78. Sunday: Ironi Nahariya vs Maccabi Tel Aviv, 7:10 p.m. (live on Sport5); Bnei Hasharon vs Ironi Ashkelon, 7:15 p.m.; Hapoel Afula/Gilboa vs Hapoel Galil Elyon-Golan, 7:30 p.m.; Ironi Ramat Gan vs Maccabi Rishon Lezion, 7:30 p.m.