Holon, Jerusalem, Mac TA off to good starts

Winner League season in full swing as Israeli clubs also get ready for continental competition

 HAPOEL JERUSALEM FORWARD TaShawn Thomas converts an alley-oop dunk off a pass from teammate Tamir Blatt (unseen) during the Reds’ 91-82 victory over Ironi Nahariya on Sunday night at the capital’s Pais Arena. (photo credit: DOV HALICKMAN PHOTOGRAPHY)
HAPOEL JERUSALEM FORWARD TaShawn Thomas converts an alley-oop dunk off a pass from teammate Tamir Blatt (unseen) during the Reds’ 91-82 victory over Ironi Nahariya on Sunday night at the capital’s Pais Arena.
Maccabi Rishon Lezion defeated Hapoel Holon 100-91 in an entertaining game as both clubs opened their Winner League campaigns over the weekend.
Holon got off to a hot start as Chris Johnson and Tyrus McGee led the way, but Isaiah Taylor, newcomer Trey Lewis and the pair of Noams – Dovrat and Avivi – were able to brush off the early struggles to help Rishon take the nin-point win. Holon will now prepare for Champions League play against Cholet on Tuesday night.
Taylor led all scorers with 27 points and six assists, Lewis added 19 points while Avivi scored 16 points – his career high – and Dovrat added 14 points in the win. McGee scored 24 points and Johnson chipped in with 16 points while Willy Workman and Richard Howell scored 12 points apiece in defeat.
“I think we played better in the second half and we really were able to clamp down defensively,” said Rishon coach Guy Goodes. “We have a mix of veterans and younger players which is a bit of a risk, but thankfully we are able to learn and work together game by game.”
Holon coach Stefanos Dedas also reflected on the contest.
“We came into the game after just one day of preparation which we knew would be difficult. Rishon had an advantage because they were able to prepare for a week and we had been playing in Europe and ended up tiring.”
Meanwhile, Hapoel Jerusalem downed Ironi Nahariya 91-82 to get its domestic league campaign off to a good start.
Tamir Blatt and TaShawn Thomas starred for the Reds as the pair teamed up to score crucial baskets down the stretch including an incredible alley-oop slam from Blatt to Thomas to notch the season-opening victory. Oded Katash’s squad will now set its sights on its second Basketball Champions League game, on Wednesday night against Limoges.
Thomas scored 19 points and grabbed nine rebounds, Blatt added 18 points and 10 assists, Idan Zalmanson chipped in with 13 points while Adam Ariel scored a quartet of triples for 12 points in the win.
Devon Scott led Nahariya with 22 points and nine boards, Kalin Lucas added 20 points while Jaron Blossomgame scored 12 points in the defeat.
“It all starts with defense,” said a satisfied Katash. “When we’re focused, we know how to grab the rebounds and battle on the boards. We had some foul problems and various injuries, but we will have to learn how to deal with them. As time goes by the players will continue to get into better playing shape.”
Blatt was all smiles following the game.
“We prepared well and we made the correct decisions down the stretch. This is my fourth season playing with TaShawn Thomas and I love playing with him, we have great chemistry together.”
Elsewhere, Maccabi Tel Aviv sunk Hapoel Eilat 86-74 as big man Ante Zizic showed his power in the paint to help lead the yellow-and-blue to victory.
Ioannis Sfairopoulos’s squad pulled away in the second quarter to take a 14-point lead into halftime, but Ariel Beit Halachmi’s team closed the gap to just four points heading into the final frame. However, Scottie Wilbekin, Chris Jones and Zizic all found the basket over the last ten minutes to record the win.
Zizic scored 24 points and added nine boards, Sandy Cohen dropped 17 points, Elijah Bryant chipped in with 16 points for Maccabi. Casey Prather led Eilat with 19 points, Josh Nebo added 14 points while Joe Ragland and Zuf Ben Moshe scored 13 points in the loss.
“Overall, we played really well for most of the minutes starting great defensively and that was our first goal coming into tonight", said Sfairopoulos following the victory. “In the first half we disorganized them, in the second half they found the solutions, but from the end of the third period we played good defensively. In general we played really smart offensively.”
The star of the game, Zizic, also reflected on the win.
“I’m proud of the guys and the way we started the Israeli league after missing some vital players. Today we played on and off. Some points we played great and in some, we need to play better but all round we won the game and that is the most important.”
Also, Hapoel Gilboa/Galil dropped Hapoel Tel Aviv 88-68 in the Galilee in a game that was never close as hosts opened up a 44-27 lead at halftime and never looked back.
Iftach Ziv scored 15 points and dished out six assists while Kerry Blackshear added 15 points and seven rebounds in the win. For Tel Aviv, Talib Zanna scored 15 points and Walter Lemon chipped in with 13 points for Tel Aviv in the loss.
Hapoel Beersheba blew out host Maccabi Haifa 102-61. Caleb Agada went off for 28 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists, Eric Griffin had 22 points and Travis Warech scored 20 points for coach Rami Hadar on his birthday.