(photo credit: AP)
Hapoel Jerusalem almost squandered a seven-point, fourth-quarter lead but a last-second basket by Meir Tapiro gave Hapoel a 78-76 victory over host Ironi Nahariya on Sunday night in a BSL game.
While Hapoel Jerusalem has won three straight in the league, Nahariya absorbed its first loss of the BSL season.
Tapiro's bucket decided a tight game that saw several lead changes in the final two minutes. He received the ball with the score tied and 12 seconds remaining. "The idea was to milk the clock and get off the final shot," he said minutes after the game ended. "Luckily the ball went in."
"I was 100% sure that Meir should take the last shot and I wasn't wrong," bragged Jerusalem coach Erez Edelstein.
The teams matched each other basket for basket in the first quarter, which ended 21-21, and then again in the second period. Cory Carr gave the hosts a narrow 40-39 halftime lead with a last-second bucket.
Both teams benefited from strong inside play. Jerusalem's Erez Marckovitch had a big first half, scoring 11 points in his first appearance against his former club, while Otis Hill countered for Nahariya with 11 of his own.
With the contest tied at 49-49 midway through the third quarter, Tapiro, Jerusalem's reserve point guard, took control of the game with a quick five points, followed by nifty assists to Mario Austin and Roger Mason and suddenly the visitors had a 62-53 lead.
Tapiro finished with 15 points and six assists, while Austin had a game- and team-high 20 points.
Cory Carr scored 19 points, including five three-pointers.
Jerusalem's revamped roster and coaching staff suffered a season-opening loss, but is still developing the chemistry that it hopes will challenge Maccabi Tel Aviv for the league title.
"We've been improving in the last three games," said Tapiro, "but we still have a long way to go."
Hapoel Tel Aviv and Maccabi Tel Aviv meet Monday at Nokia Arena in the first Tel Aviv derby of the BSL season to wrap up Matchday 4.