Jerusalem crushes Haifa in convincing start to season

A 17-3 start to the second half gives Hapoel unassailable lead against last season’s runner-up.

Bracey Wright scored a game-high 19 points for Hapoel Jerusalem (photo credit: ODED KARNI)
Bracey Wright scored a game-high 19 points for Hapoel Jerusalem
(photo credit: ODED KARNI)
Hapoel Jerusalem sent out a message to the rest of the BSL on Sunday night after dominating Maccabi Haifa on the road in the season opener.
After claiming the pre-season Winner Cup with a victory over Maccabi Tel Aviv two weeks ago, Jerusalem cruised to a 76-58 victory at Romema Arena on Sunday in a game which was brought forward due to Haifa’s traditional pre-season NBA tour.
Bracey Wright made sure Jerusalem held a five-point lead (41-36) at the break, scoring 17 points in the first half.
Backcourt partner Derwin Kitchen led the team to a 17-3 run to start the second half, opening a 19-point cushion (58-39) to effectively clinch the win.
“We have a lot of guys who can make plays and fortunately we had a strong second half and that was really important in this game,” said Wright, who finished with a game-high 19 points.
“We made a point tonight that we come out and play strong every night.
Definitely you want to open the season in a strong way and I think we did that.
Honestly I think it is too early in the season to judge the team, but we have a lot of weapons so we have to give this team some time and we will see what happens.”
Kitchen added 11 points for Jerusalem, with Donta Smith scoring seven points in his return to Haifa after playing for the Greens in the past two years.
Jeff Allen, Hector Hernandez and Alex Chubrevich scored 10 points each for Haifa, which shot a shocking 3-of- 25 from three-point range.
“It was important to me that Jerusalem will be a strong defensive team and we showed that today,” said Hapoel coach Danny Franco. “We weren’t at our fluid best, but we still had 26 assists. We still have a lot to work on. I love our team and we can still become a lot better. We will take it one day at a time, but this is an important win.”
After a short ceremony recognizing his contribution to Haifa over the last two seasons, Smith scored the first points of the 2014/15 BSL season.
However, despite turning the ball over time and again at the start of the game, it was Haifa which opened a seven-point gap (21-14).
Jerusalem never looked concerned and a 7-0 run in less than a minute saw it tie the score at 21-21 to end the first period.
Hapoel capitalized on Haifa’s reckless ball handling to score eight fastbreak points in the first 10 minutes before capping a 17-1 run in the second period to take a nine-point gap (31-22).
Haifa went almost seven minutes without a field goal, but only Wright showed up on offense for the visitors and Tomer Bar-Even’s lay-up to end the first half brought the Greens within five points (41-36).
Wright scored 17 points in the first half, but his teammates were responsible for the 17-3 run to begin the third quarter, opening a 19-point margin (58-39) which Haifa never came close to erasing.
Haifa will begin its fourth NBA tour in five years when it faces the Washington Wizards on October 15, before playing the Portland Trail Blazers on October 17, the Sacramento Kings and Omri Casspi on October 18 and the Toronto Raptors on October 22.
The rest of the BSL will open its season next weekend, with Haifa to already play its second game of the campaign on Saturday when it hosts Maccabi Ashdod.
Jerusalem will also play its second game next week when it visits Ironi Nahariya on Sunday, with Maccabi Tel Aviv traveling to Ironi Ness Ziona for its opener.
On Monday, Hapoel Eilat hosts Hapoel Tel Aviv, Hapoel Gilboa/Galil visits Hapoel Holon and Maccabi Rishon Lezion faces Bnei Herzliya.