Halperin the hero as Hap J’lem clips Mac TA

Reds stay hot, take share of first place in BSL • Season spiraling out of control for yellow-and-blue.

Hapoel Jerusaelm's Yotam Halperin 370 (photo credit: Oded Karni/BSL)
Hapoel Jerusaelm's Yotam Halperin 370
(photo credit: Oded Karni/BSL)
Yotam Halperin led Hapoel Jerusalem to a nail-biting 87-85 victory over his former team Maccabi Tel Aviv at Malha Arena on Monday night, scoring 19 points – including the go-ahead three-pointer with 25 seconds to play, thanks to some unexpected help from referee Gili Oved.
With Maccabi leading by a point, Derwin Kitchen’s wayward pass was on its way into the stands before Oved inadvertently kept the ball in play, failing to react quickly enough and move out of the way.
The ball fell right into the hands of Halperin and the guard, who was close to making a return to Maccabi during the summer, sank his fourth triple of the night, but not before a fortuitous bounce off the rim, to give Jerusalem a lead it wouldn’t relinquish.
“They always say that to beat Maccabi you need to play well and also have some luck,” said Halperin, who led all scorers.
“It felt like it all happened in slow motion. There was an amazing atmosphere. The biggest progress we have made at Hapoel this season is that we are focusing on our own play and not on other teams.”
Artsiom Parakhouski added 14 points for Hapoel, with Ronald Dupree and Kitchen scoring 13 points each for the hosts. Lior Eliyahu had six points in his first game against Maccabi since leaving the yellow- and-blue in the summer.
David Blu led Maccabi with 17 points, with Guy Pnini building on his recent excellent form with 15 points.
Devin Smith, who missed a three at the buzzer, finished with a double-double of 13 points and 10 rebounds for Tel Aviv, which dropped to its fourth road defeat in five BSL games despite hitting 20-of-29 two-point attempts (69%) and 12-of-28 shots (43%) from beyond the arc.
While Jerusalem improved to a 6-3 record with its sixth league win in its past seven games, Maccabi, which played without big-men Shawn James and Sofoklis Schortsanitis, fell to what was once an unthinkable 5-4.
The yellow-and-blue lost five regular season games during all of last season’s erratic campaign, which ended with a defeat to Maccabi Haifa in the BSL final. Tel Aviv lost a combined three games in the two previous seasons.
“You tell me what happened on that final play,” said a bemused Tel Aviv coach David Blatt. “It was an outstanding game and we lost because of one shot. We played well, but failed in the small details.”
The teams traded three pointers for much of the first period, with Hapoel ultimately taking a two-point edge (28- 26) into the second quarter.
Maccabi improved its defensive play in the second frame, holding the hosts to 13 points, and four consecutive points by Pnini gave Tel Aviv its biggest gap of the night (41-33).
However, Hapoel closed to within four points (45-41) by the break and was trailing by just three points (70-67) with 10 minutes to play.
The visitors scored the first four points of the fourth period to open a seven-point margin, but Jerusalem moved back in front with an 11-2 run, setting up a dramatic final five minutes.
Blu’s free throws gave Maccabi a one-point advantage (85-84) with 51 seconds remaining, but referee Oved came to Jerusalem’s rescue and Halperin made the most of the opportunity, hitting a clutch three to secure a sweet victory.
Also Monday, Hapoel Tel Aviv improved to 4-4 with a 92-73 victory at Barak Netanya (4-5).
Carlon Brown had 22 points for Hapoel, which was in complete control after taking a 49-35 lead into the interval.
Dawan Robinson scored 20 points for Netanya.