Jerusalem beats Maccabi TA to claim Winner Cup

Hapoel Jerusalem sends message by edging yellow-and-blue in pre-season finale at new Jerusalem arena.

Hapoel Jerusalem basketball owner Ori Allon (photo credit: ODED KARNI/BSL)
Hapoel Jerusalem basketball owner Ori Allon
(photo credit: ODED KARNI/BSL)
Hapoel Jerusalem claimed its first victory over Maccabi Tel Aviv at the new Jerusalem Arena on Thursday night, registering a confidence-boosting performance to lift the pre-season Winner Cup.
Jerusalem won the competition for the first time in five years with an 81-78 victory in front of a sold-out crowd of 9,500 fans in its state-of-the-art arena which was officially inaugurated this week.
“This is an amazing arena. We will have a great season here,” said Jerusalem guard Yotam Halperin, who led five Jerusalem players in double figures with 13 points.
Lior Eliyahu, Bracey Wright and Tony Gaffney had 12 points each for Hapoel, with Joseph Jones finishing with 11 points.
Sylven Landesberg and Guy Pnini scored 20 points each for Maccabi, with Jeremy Pargo netting 13 points.
“This is just a taste of what can happen here this season,” said new Jerusalem coach Danny Franco. “However, we must remember that this is just the beginning of the season. It is always nice to win, but we need to build on this in the Euroleague qualifiers next week.”
Jerusalem plays CEZ Nymburk of the Czech Republic in the first round of the Euroleague qualifiers in Ostend, Belgium next Wednesday and will need to win three games in as many days to advance to the regular season of continental basketball’s premier club competition.
Maccabi will fly to South America next week to face Liga de las Americas champion Flamengo in the 2014 FIBA Intercontinental Cup. The two-game series will be played in Rio de Janeiro, with the opening encounter scheduled for Friday, September 26 and Game 2 set to take place two days later.
Landesberg picked up where he left off in the semis at the start of Thursday’s final, hitting an early three-pointer after scoring 36 points in the semifinal victory over Ironi Ness Ziona.
However, Jerusalem would take its first lead of the night following an Eliyahu dunk (8-7) and remained in front until the break.
Hapoel, which took a 27-23 advantage into the second period, dominated the paint, and thanks to Halperin’s proficiency from beyond the arc extended its cushion.
Halperin’s third triple of the contest opened a 30-23 margin and Maccabi would have lost touch had it not been for its accurate night from three-point range.
New signing Nate Linhart only entered the game at the start of the second period, but he hit three triples in quick succession to keep the yellow-and-blue within six points (41-35). Pargo’s three in Maccabi’s subsequent possession was his team’s eighth in 11 attempts and cut the deficit to just three points.
However, Wright would score nine consecutive points for Hapoel, helping the team open a double-digit gap (48- 38) before taking a five-point advantage (54-49) into the interval.
Maccabi got off to the better start in the second half, with a Tyus jumper tying the score at 54-54. There was very little to separate the teams for the remainder of the third frame, with Derwin Kitchen’s basket to end the quarter giving Jerusalem a slender two-point edge (68-66) entering the final 10 minutes.
Hapoel pulled ahead in the first five minutes of the fourth quarter, finally improving its defensive play and continuing its prolific ways on offense.
Gaffney’s long jumper took the margin to nine points (77-68), but Maccabi replied with six straight points.
Pargo’s free throws brought Tel Aviv within two points (79-77) inside the final two minutes, but both the American guard and Pnini missed three-pointers which would have given the yellow- and-blue the lead and Jerusalem held on for a dramatic win after Pargo squandered a chance to send the final to overtime at the buzzer.