(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
A sensational Meir Tapiro performance helped Bnei Hasharon to an 83-68 victory over Ironi Nahariya on Monday night. Tapiro scored 31 points, hitting eight of 13 from two point range, three of four from beyond the arc and six of seven from the free-throw line. The veteran guard also added four assists, four rebounds and four steals in 38 minutes on court.
"We won a very tough road game," Tapiro said. "We remained in touch with Nahariya in the first half and did an amazing defensive job in the second half. We desperately wanted to win the game because it was important for us to record a big win on the road."
Bnei Hasharon's fourth straight win takes the team to the top of the BSL standings. The team has already defeated Maccabi Tel Aviv, Hapoel Jerusalem, Nahariya and Hapoel Holon this season and enters the four-week winter break as the league's in-form side.
"To win at Nahariya is a declaration of intent," Bnei Hasharon coach Effi Birenboim said. "We have the best defense in the league. We limited Nahariya to just 21 points in the second half."
Ndudi Ebi scored 16 points and grabbed seven rebounds for the visitors, with Jason Williams adding 10 points and six rebounds. Otis Hill and Adrian Pledger each scored 12 points for Nahariya and Matan Naor and Sasa Ocokoljic each contributed 11 points.
"They limited us on offense and we didn't play well on defense. We can't afford to make mistakes on both ends of the court," Hill said after the game. "When a team stops you from doing what you know to do, you get frustrated. This is a big loss. We had a chance to win the game, but they played a great second half."
After the teams split the first 20 points of the game, Nahariya went on a 12-2 run, with Hill and Naor each scoring six points. Pledger's three-pointer with one minute to play in the first period extended the host's margin to 12 points (27-15), but Tapiro's buzzer beating triple made sure Bnei Hasharon only trailed by single-digits after 10 minutes (29-20).
The visitors continued close in on Nahariya at the start of the second quarter, with Taprio's jumper bringing his team to within four points (33-29). That would, however, prove to be as close a Bnei Hasharon would come in the period, as Ironi increased its advantage to 47-39 by the interval.
The second half began with six straight Bnei Hasharon points and three minutes to the end of the third quarter Cookie Belcher gave the team its first lead in more than 20 minutes (56-54). The lead would exchange hands several more times in the period and the visitors led 61-60 with 10 minutes to play after Naor's three-point attempt at the buzzer hit the rim.
Bnei Hasharon's measly lead mushroomed at the start of the fourth period thanks to an 11-0 run. Ebi and Williams hit three-pointers and the team's excellent defensive play kept Nahariya scoreless for the first four minutes of the quarter.
Naor's triple and Hill's basket brought Ironi back to within seven points (72-65), but Tapiro immediately answered back with two points of his own to make sure the visitors maintained their comfortable lead. Erez Katz's three with less than three minutes to play extended the margin to 11 points (77-66) and another Tapiro triple soon after clinched the important road win.
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