Jerusalem holds off Ashdod at Malha

Strong second half gives Reds 84-73 win; Mac Tel Aviv stays undefeated in Adriadic League.

JARVIS VARNADO of Hapoel Jerusalem slams 311 (photo credit: Hapoel Jerusalem website)
JARVIS VARNADO of Hapoel Jerusalem slams 311
(photo credit: Hapoel Jerusalem website)
Hapoel Jerusalem won backto- back games for the first time this season on Saturday, defeating Maccabi Ashdod 84-73 in BSL action at Malha Arena.
Jerusalem kick-started its season with a hard-fought win at Barak Netanya last week and built on that triumph on Saturday with an important victory over a dangerous Ashdod team.
“I was really angry at halftime because we came in with a specific game-plan that we didn’t execute,” said Jerusalem coach Oded Katash, whose team goes to Ukraine next for its Eurocup opener against BC Donetsk on Tuesday.
“We played small and we didn’t focus, but we fixed that in the second half.”
Luke Jackson led Jerusalem with 18 points, with D.J. Strawberry and Dan Grunfeld scoring 15 and 14 points, respectively.
Ramel Bradley scored 21 points for Ashdod, which also got 16 points and 16 rebounds from Alex Tyus.
Ashdod got off to the better start, scoring eight of the first 10 points of the night.
The hosts came back and moved in front late in the first period, but Ashdod scored the last two points of the quarter to take an 18-17 advantage.
After a tight start to the second frame, Ashdod opened an eight points cushion (44- 36) with a 13-2 run and led by five points (44-39) at the break.
However, Hapoel scored the first five points of the second half to tie the score and its 13-3 run, capped by Strawberry’s three-pointer, gave it a 52-47 gap.
Excellent defensive play by Jerusalem, especially from big-man Jarvis Varnado who clogged the lane with his 7- foot-4-inch wingspan, helped the hosts limit Ashdod to just 12 points in the quarter and Hapoel had a 60-56 edge with 10 minutes to play.
Ashdod closed to within two points at the beginning of the fourth period, but Hapoel scored the next seven points to open a significant cushion (68-59) it would maintain until the final buzzer.
Three BSL games will take place on Sunday, with Maccabi Rishon Lezion hosting Hapoel Gilboa/Galil, Bnei Hasharon visiting BC Habika’a and Hapoel Holon welcoming Ironi Ashkelon.
Maccabi Haifa hosts Barak Netanya on Monday.
Maccabi Tel Aviv, which has a bye in the BSL this week, improved to 6-0 in the Adriatic League on Saturday night with an 81-69 victory over Buducnost in Montenegro.
Maccabi continued its momentum from recent weeks, toying with the Montenegrins in the first half, which ended in a 35-34 yellow- and-blue lead, before surging ahead after the break.
Shawn James made the most of the opportunity he was given by coach David Blatt, scoring 15 points and taking eight rebounds.
Jordan Farmar and Devin Smith added 14 and 13 points, respectively, for Maccabi, which hosts Charleroi in the Euroleague on Thursday.
“This caps a very successful weekend for us,” said Blatt, whose team also beat Anadolu Efes Istanbul in the Euroleague on Thursday. “We had to sweat to win tonight and I’m happy about that because that keeps us sharp.
We split the minutes well between the different players and won despite playing without David Blu and Richard Hendrix.
“It is far from easy to win two tough road games in three days. The players and staff deserve a lot of credit and now we can take a short rest before a crucial game against Charleroi.”