(photo credit: )
Hapoel Jerusalem ground out its first league win of the BSL season on Sunday night, defeating Hapoel Afula/ Gilboa 96-87 in the first topdivision game in the Afula region in 13 years.
Afula/Gilboa led by as many as 16 points in the first period, but lost Antonio Meeking to an injury and was unable to keep up its early pace.
Matan Naor scored a career-high 27 points for Jerusalem, with all his points coming from beyond the arc (9-of-12). "I scored a couple of three-pointers at the beginning and that got me into the game," he said.
"After my third shot went in, I felt like I couldn't miss."
Afula/Gilboa fed off the excitement of the capacity crowd at the start of the game and an 18-3 run gave the team a 24-9 lead. A threepointer by Guni Izraeli (21 points, six assists) put the hosts up by 16 points, but Naor's basket from beyond the arc at the end of the period cut Afula/Gilboa's lead slightly and the quarter ended with a 32-20 advantage for the hosts.
An 8-0 run by Jerusalem at the beginning of the second period was a sign of the things to come as the visitors edged ever closer to their opponents.
A dunk by Timmy Bowers (29 points, seven assists) gave Jerusalem its first lead of the game (43-42) and Naor's fifth three at the end of the period put the visitors up 51-47 midway through the game.
The game remained tight in the second half, but a 10-3 run by Jerusalem gave last season's BSL runner-up a 67-58 lead and the visitors seemed to be on their way to a certain victory.
However, Afula/Gilboa refused to fold and two more points by Izraeli cut the lead to 67-65 with two-and-a-half minutes to go in the period. The quarter ended with a successful free throw by Bowers, which gave Jerusalem a 74-72 advantage going into the last 10 minutes.
Michael Johnson gave the hosts their last lead of the match (76-74) before Jerusalem went on a final surge that would secure the win.
Another Naor three-pointer with just under three minutes to go put the visitors up by six and Jerusalem held on for the win.
Bnei Hasharon 106, Maccabi Rishon Lezion 93
The season has only just begun, but one thing can already be determined: Lee Nailon is the steal of the season.
The former NBA player dropped 40 points on Rishon Lezion a week after scoring 31 in his BSL debut and is displaying offensive skills never seen before on a team like Bnei Hasharon.
The game entered the fourth period with both teams still chasing the win, but a late run by the hosts gave them their second win of the season.