Barak Netanya proved its excellent start to the season is no coincidence with an impressive 84-72 victory over Hapoel Jerusalem on Saturday, its fourth win in five games.
Some critics had claimed that the newly-promoted club's surprising start to the campaign had more to do with its schedule rather that its skill. However, Netanya silenced its doubters on Saturday, beginning the contest with an 8-0 run and leading throughout the night.
Jerusalem closed to within three points in the final stages of the encounter, but could not complete a comeback, and after snatching victory from the jaws of defeat in its last two BSL games, got no more than it deserved in Netanya.
"I told my players that if we control the rebound we can win," Netanya coach Arik Alfasi said after seeing his team take 20 offensive rebounds. "I'm very pleased with this win. No team will have it easy in Netanya. We are a good side, but we've still got room for improvement."
Tony Washam scored 32 points and took 12 rebounds for Netanya, although he did need 28 field-goal attempts to lead all scorers. Tony Younger and Danilo Pinnock added 15 points each for Maccabi, which only scored 22 of 69 from the field (31.8%).
"It was a tough win. We had to give everything tonight," said Washam. "It is not about how many points I score, but doing whatever you can to help the team win."
Leo Lyons impressed with 24 points and 14 rebounds for Jerusalem, but Guy Goodes's team was always going to struggle with rising-star Yuval Naimi scoring just nine points, while turning the ball over four times. Kevinn Pinkney and Tre Simmons contributed 14 and 12 points respectively.
"We only had seven senior players fit, but that is no excuse," said Goodes, who will have already turned his attention to Tuesday's Eurocup group stage opener against BC Siauliai.
"Netanya made the most of our weaknesses and we did not deserve to win."
After opening the game with eight straight points, Netanya led just 22-18 at the end of the first quarter. The hosts extended the margin to nine points (43-34) by the break and Hapoel entered the final 10 minutes down by 11 points (62-51).
The visitors, who were playing without new signing Pooh Jeter, managed to close to within three points with just over two minutes to play, but Netanya held on for the win it so deserved.
On Sunday, Hapoel Gilboa/Galil hosts Maccabi Tel Aviv in the battle of the unbeatens. Galil and Maccabi have won their first four games of the season, and both have done so by impressive margins. Oded Katash's men have triumphed by an average 16.8 points and Pini Gershon's players have cruised by 18.3 points per game.
Also Sunday, Hapoel Holon hosts Maccabi Rishon Lezion, Ironi Ashkelon visits Ironi Nahariya and Ironi Ramat Gan welcomes Hapoel Afula.
On Monday, Maccabi Haifa travels to Bnei Hasharon. Haifa's Jeremy Tyler, who will return from a one-game suspension, was handed an additional NIS 10,000 fine on Friday for headbutting Gilboa's Moti Moskovich two weeks ago.