Hapoel Jerusalem downed a pesky Nes Ziona 82-77 to stay at the top of the standings in first place. Sharp shooting by Suleiman Braimoh and clutch free throws by Adam Ariel at the end of the game canceled out a masterful scoring performance by Diante Garrett.
Nes Ziona took advantage of a sluggish Jerusalem out of the gate with points from Garrett and Tim Soares but Braimoh started to heat it up in the second quarter to send the game into halftime all tied up at 39-39.
Jalen Adams and Retin Obasohan pummeled Lior Lubin’s team in the third quarter, but Garrett and Simisola Shittu pulled Nes Ziona to within 4-points late in the game. However, Obasohan and Ariel scored from the charity stripe to wrap up the victory.
Braimoh led Jerusalem with 18 points while Adams and Obasohan added 14 points apiece in the win. Garrett led all scorers with 31 points, Soares chipped in with 16 points and Shittu scored 10 points in the loss.
“It’s hard to say it was a good game when it wasn’t,” Jerusalem coach Yotam Halperin said. We didn’t start well and when we were up by 18 points we allowed Nes Ziona to cut down our advantage to just two possessions.
As for Garrett, it can’t happen that a player scores 31 points against Jerusalem and we had these things happen already this season. Our depth should be an advantage especially against a team like Nes Ziona.”
“We began and ended the game well but in the middle we allowed Jerusalem to make their runs,” Nes Ziona coach Lior Lubin explained. We knew Jerusalem would make a run but we made some mistakes and they gained the upper hand and hit some important baskets down the stretch.”
Jerusalem’s veteran center Itay Segev also shared his thoughts on the victory, “We played well for two plus quarters but the first quarter was not great and the last one we let them come back into the game. We are a physical and aggressive team that plays tough, but they came in aggressive and ready to play at the start of the game.”
Maccabi Tel Aviv vs. Hapoel Galil Elyon
Maccabi Tel Aviv walloped Hapoel Galil Elyon 113-82 as six players finished in double digits in the blowout win.
The yellow-and-blue dominated the matchup from the outset taking an 18-point lead at halftime on stellar shooting on the inside and from the outside led by Khyri Thomas and Derrick Williams while Iftach Ziv and Roman Sorkin helped propel Avi Even’s team to finish off the 31-point victory.
Sorkin led the way with 21 points, Thomas added 17, Ziv 16 and Williams drilled 4 triples for 16 points in the win as well. Ike Iroegbu paced Galil with 19 points, Chavaughn Lewis scored 13. Nimrod Levi added 10 points in the defeat.
“I’m happy we brought the right energy to the game and it began with the defense,” Maccabi coach Avi Even explained. “We stopped their pick and roll and in most cases we controlled the rebounds. We translated that to easy points. Our in ball defense was great and we will continue to improve.”
“Maccabi is a better team, but we have to now put this one behind us,” Galil coach Barak Peleg said. “We have to begin focusing on playing against the other teams and win. We had a tough time with our defense and then things went down from there.”
Khyri Thomas also discussed the victory from his viewpoint, “Absolutely this was my best game. I’ve been hard on myself and I want to prove myself. I put some pressure on myself and we took some losses that we shouldn’t have. But we were all bought in and despite the win versus Nes Ziona we weren’t satisfied. We knew we could play better.”
Hapoel Tel Aviv vs. Hapoel Haifa
Elsewhere, Hapoel Tel Aviv thumped Hapoel Haifa 92-71 with a huge second half as James Young scored ten points down the stretch to wrap up the win for Danny Franco’s squad. Both sides played neck and neck over the first half as Kadeem Allen and James Dickey led the way for Elad Hasin’s team while Young, Bar Timor and Josh Owens countered for Tel Aviv to head into halftime knotted up at 42-42.
However, after losing Spencer Weisz to injury and Will Raymon to an ejection, Paul Stoll, Young and Timor turned up the offense to pull away over the final frame to take the 21-point win.
Young paced Hapoel with 24 points, Timor added 21 and Owens chipped in with 15 points in the victory. Allen led Haifa with 22 points, Dickey scored 13 points and James Ennis added 11 points in the loss.
“This was a very important win for us due to J’Covan Brown’s injury along with the loss to Jerusalem and Herzliya,” a relieved Hapoel Coach Danny Franco explained. “The fans were very important for us in this game and they really pushed us in the second half to help us to the win.”
“I was here in the same situation like this two weeks ago,” Haifa coach Elad Hasin began. “No one likes the way the game was played with so many trips to the line and the amount of fouls were very lopsided.”
Hapoel Holon vs. Hapoel Beersheba
Meanwhile, Hapoel Holon just got by against Hapoel Beersheba 72-69 in a tight battle that went down to the wire. Adam Smith hit a pair of huge 3-pointers while Tyus McGee also went from downtown during crunch time to propel Guy Goodes’ squad to the slim victory. Smith led the way with 20 points, McGee added 18 and Michale Kyser had 15 points in the win. Amir Bell scored 17 points, Dererk Pardon put in 14 and Cody Demps added 13 points in the loss.
The game MVP Adam Smith looked back at the win, “This was a tough game and we were missing a number of players so we had issues with our depth. But a win like this shows our character and who we are. While we can play on the offensive side we can also play tight defense as well.”
Bnei Herzliya vs. Hapoel Eilat
Down south Bnei Herzliya crushed Hapoel Eilat 96-79 thanks to a late 24-3 run by Oren Aharoni’s squad by the Red Sea. Eilat led early on but Chris Babb and Sandy Cohen combined to go 11/16 from behind the arc to cruise to the victory. Babb paced the visitors with 23 points, Cohen added 21 points and Maurice Kemp checked in with a double-double of 14 points and 10 rebounds. Toney Douglas led Eilat with 23 points, Noam Avivi checked in with 13 points and Roi Huber added 12 points in the loss.
“I’ve been locking in on my shot during practice and workouts,” Sandy Cohen said after his perfect game from downtown. “I got some open looks and was able to knock down some shots. Overall, it was a good win for us and winning on the road is never an easy task. It was a shootout in the first half but we were able to get some stops in the 3rd quarter and went on a run and never looked back.”
Hapoel Gilboa vs. Maccabi Rishon Lezion
In the Galilee, Hapoel Gilboa Galil pulled away in the fourth quarter to down last place Maccabi Rishon Lezion 96-88 up at Gan Ner. In a back and forth battle that saw the hosts cling to a 1-point lead after three quarters, Michael Brisker and Ronnie Harrell took the bull by the horns to send Guy Kaplan’s team to the win. Brisker led all scorers with 22 points, Harrell added 21 and Derek Cooke 18 in the win. Tu Holloway paced Rishon with 21 points, Anthony Brown checked in with 20 and Archie Goodwin knocked up 16 points in the defeat.
“This was a very important win but we didn’t play good enough on defense which is something we need to work on and improve in order to beat bigger clubs,” Michael Brisker explained. “But I am happy that we succeeded in taking the win after a great team effort.”