Reigning-champion Rishon off to good start

Title banner hung in triumphant celebratory affair; Tapiro wins coaching debut with Ashdod.

Maccabi Rishon Lezion forward Darryl Monroe (right) had 10 points and eight rebounds in last night’s 77-75 win over Maccabi Ashdod and Charles Thomas (photo credit: ODED KARNI/BSL)
Maccabi Rishon Lezion forward Darryl Monroe (right) had 10 points and eight rebounds in last night’s 77-75 win over Maccabi Ashdod and Charles Thomas
(photo credit: ODED KARNI/BSL)
Maccabi Rishon Lezion began its BSL title defense with a 66-60 victory over Hapoel Eilat on Monday night, while Meir Tapiro’s coaching career also got off to a winning start in Ashdod.
Rishon stunned Maccabi Tel Aviv and Hapoel Jerusalem on its way to a historic championship last season, but underwent a complete overhaul during the summer, with only three seniors players returning for another year.
Israelis Avi Ben-Shimol, Nitzan Hanochi and Idan Zalmanson could also still be joined by star guard Shawn Dawson, who is currently participating in the New Orleans Pelicans’ training camp, but even without him Rishon managed to open its campaign with a victory.
It trailed by as many as 15 points in the second quarter, but moved into the lead with a 15-0 run in the third frame.
Rishon’s gap reached 12 points early in the fourth period, but the game was wide open in the final stages after the visitors closed within two points (61-59) with less than two minutes to play.
A Ben-Shimol three-pointer with 1:34 minutes remaining shifted the momentum back in Rishon’s favor and proved to be decisive, ensuring that a celebratory night, which began with the hanging of the championship banner, also ended with the hosts smiling.
Ben-Shimol scored 11 points for Arik Shivek’s team, with Charles Thomas adding 10. Pierria Henry, Reginald Buckner and Landon Milbourne had 11 points each for Eilat.
Tapiro made a seamless transition to coaching, joining Ashdod two weeks after he retired at the age of 41. Tapiro played for 21 years in the top flight and is regarded as one of the greatest guards in Israeli basketball history.
There were, however, some question marks regarding his appointment by Ashdod, although at least some of them were surely answered by Monday’s 90-68 victory over Maccabi Kiryat Gat.
Tapiro couldn’t have asked for a better coaching debut, with his team dominating Kiryat Gat from the start. Kiryat Gat scored the first four points of the night, but was outscored 27-5 in the remainder of the first quarter.
The visitors had no answer to Ashdod’s three-pointers, with Chase Simon’s triple taking the margin to double-digits (17-6) for the first time. The gap crossed 20 points (31-10) early in the second period and the rest of the game was pure garbage time.
Daniel Ewing led Ashdod with 25 points, with Simon finishing with 18 points. Tyshawn Taylor netted 16 points for Kiryat Gat, which was missing the injured Marco Killingsworth.
“I’m happy that we played well especially on defense,” said Tapiro.
“We started a long journey today. The guys want to work and become better players and that makes me happy. Everyone was waiting for this game and I’m happy we channeled our excitement in the right direction.”
In Holon, a 10-0 run by the hosts to end the first quarter opened an 18-6 lead. The gap reached 17 points (23-6), only for Gilboa/ Galil to surge back into the contest to close within four points with a 13-0 run.
Holon would answer with an 11-0 push to establish a comfortable cushion (34- 19) once more, but the visitors netted the first nine points of the second half to close within one possession (36-33). They couldn’t complete the comeback though, with Holon scoring 22 of the next 27 points to open a 20-point margin (58-38) from which Gilboa could not recover, ultimately winning 77-61.
Shlomi Harush had 19 points for Holon, with Darion Atkins finishing with 16 points and nine rebounds. Murphy Holloway led Gilboa with 20 points and 10 boards.
Maccabi Haifa’s game against Hapoel Tel Aviv was postponed to October 19, with Haifa facing the NBA’s Sacramento Kings in California on Monday night.