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(photo credit: Maya Spitzer)
Hapoel Jerusalem's struggles continued on Sunday night after suffering a humbling 108-92 road defeat at the hands of Ironi Ramat Gan.
In the last three weeks, the team has lost two of three BSL games, dropping to second in the standings, and was also stunned in the semifinals of the State Cup by Maccabi Haifa.
"We need to wake up and do so quickly," Jerusalem coach Guy Goodes said after the game.
"We started the game very poorly and we were very soft on defense throughout the encounter. We're lacking aggression and we allow other teams to score far too easily. If we don't fix this soon we'll be in a problem."
Mike Helms led Ramat Gan scoring 35 points, with Yariv Yatzkan the team's only other player in double-figures, scoring 19 points.
Jerusalem had five players in double-figures, with Yuval Naimi leading the way with 19 points, but that was of little importance with the team allowing 108 points.
Ramat Gan surged in front right from the start, leading 27-19 after 10 minutes.
Jerusalem struggled on offense in the second period, and trailed 45-35 at the break after scoring just 16 points in the quarter.
The second half was dominated by Ramat Gan, which has now won three in a row and is well placed to challenge for a top-eight finish and a playoff berth.
Meanwhile, Ironi Nahariya put up a valiant effort on Sunday night, but eventually succumbed 80-76 to Bnei Hasharon in Ra'anana.
Nahariya's players decided to end a four day strike on Friday despite the fact that the club's management said that it still can't afford to pay January's salaries.
Nahariya chairman Avi Sabag claimed last week that the club is facing bankruptcy after sponsor Iscar decided not to transfer the NIS 1 million it promised at the start of the season.
On Sunday, the club told its players that any request for a release will be granted and one of the team's best players, Aaron McGhee, was already let go ahead of Sunday's game.
Nahariya trailed during all of Sunday's encounter, but came to within a single point in the final minute of the game and nearly snatched the win.
Cookie Belcher scored 21 points for Bnei Hasharon, with Meir Taprio adding 15 points.
Raviv Limonad and Philip Ricci led Nahariya with 17 and 16 points respectively, but with the club's financial struggles so serious both may well not be on the team's roster by next week's game.
"The players are going through difficult days and I'm sure they're really not happy about having to strike," said Nahariya's downcast coach Ya'acov Jino.
Also Sunday, Maccabi Tel Aviv claimed another easy league win, defeating Ironi Kiryat Ata 102-80 at the Nokia Arena.
Tel Aviv led throughout the game against the BSL's bottom side, but will know from experience that comfortable victories on Sunday mean nothing ahead of Thursday's Euroleague games.
Despite being perfect in the BSL in 2009, Pini Gershon's side is just 1-3 in the Euroleague's Top 16 and needs a victory at Alba Berlin on Thursday to maintain its minute chance of advancing to the competition's quarterfinals.
Carlos Arroyo led Maccabi, scoring 19 points, with Lior Eliyahu and Marcus Brown adding 17 points each, and Dror Hagag contributing seven points and 10 assists.
Draelon Burns scored 26 points for Kiryat Ata, which returned to losing ways after winning last week for the first time since the end of October. Ironi Ashkelon claimed its second win in three games on Sunday, beating Maccabi Givat Shmuel 73-68.
Rashon Turner scored 22 points and took 13 rebounds for the winners, with Yoni Nir scoring 16 points for Givat Shmuel.
On Monday, Hapoel Holon hosts Maccabi Rishon Lezion and Hapoel Galil/Gilboa, which has lost three straight, visits Maccabi Haifa.