Hap J’lem suffers another setback

Reds lose at home to Ashkelon; Holon dominates Bnei Hasharon; Rishon tames Habika’a.

Oded Katash 311 (photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Oded Katash 311
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Hapoel Jerusalem’s miserable start to the season got even worse on Sunday night with a 95-93 defeat to Ironi Ashkelon at Malha Arena.
For a third straight game, Jerusalem’s defense was totally hopeless, allowing the visitors to do as they pleased, with Ashkelon holding a double-digit lead for large periods of the game until a late Jerusalem run gave it a chance to snatch a win.
However, despite having to run for safety several times during Saturday’s training session following the rocket attacks on Ashkelon, Eric Alfasi’s men held on for a deserved win at Malha, prompting Jerusalem fans to boo their team off the court.
“I can’t really have any complaints towards my players because they came in with the right attitude,” said underfire Jerusalem coach Oded Katash.
“We just couldn’t stop Ashkelon tonight. There is a lot of pressure in our play and I hope that our defense will settle down once Brian Randle and John Thomas return from injuries. We have still got plenty of work to do.”
D.J. Strawberry had 24 points, five rebounds and five assists for Jerusalem, with Boston Celtics guard Avery Bradley bouncing back from his disappointing debut with 21 points.
Yuval Naimi added 20 points for Hapoel, which had an impressive offensive game (23 of 39 from two-point range, nine of 22 from beyond the arc), but was simply useless defensively.
Dwayne Mitchell led six Ashkelon players in double-figures with 18 points, 12 rebounds and six assists, with Raymar Morgan and Marco Killingsworth adding 16 points each and Amit Simhon scoring 14 for Ironi, which improved to 2-1 on the season after only just losing to Maccabi Tel Aviv last week.
Ashkelon had the edge after the first 10 minutes (26-25) and extended its lead towards the end of the first half, taking a 52-43 margin into the break.
The visitors remained in front throughout the third period and a 6-0 run in the first minute of the fourth frame gave Alfasi’s team a comfortable 77-64 gap.
A 12-2 run capped by a crazy Naimi three-pointer with 16 seconds to play brought Hapoel within a single point (94-93), but Moshe Mizrahi missed a chance to win the game from beyond the arc at the buzzer and Jerusalem dropped to a defeat it fully deserved.
Meanwhile, Hapoel Holon crushed Bnei Hasharon 119-80, ensuring J.J.
Hickson had a BSL debut he will quickly want to forget.
Holon outscored the visitors 31-17 in the first period and 31-18 in the second on the way to a resounding win.
Bryant Dunston had 29 points and 14 rebounds for Holon, with Ron Lewis adding 27 points, 21 of them in the first half.
Hickson had 20 points and eight rebounds for Bnei Hasharon, which looked lost from the start of the game and never came close to giving Holon a fight.
Maccabi Haifa recorded its first win of the season on Sunday, beating Hapoel Gilboa/Galil 90-77.
Haifa opened a 20-point margin by the break (52-32) and cruised in the second half on the way to a confidence boosting win.
Sylven Landesberg had 32 points for Haifa, with Sean Williams and Carlos Powell scoring 21 and 20 points, respectively.
Courtney Fells netted 22 points for Gilboa a day after being held by police for several hours after allegedly refusing to undergo an alcohol test and assaulting a policeman when his car was pulled over following a night out at Kibbutz Yagur.
Maccabi Rishon Lezion also got off the mark after its bye week, beating BC Habika’a 78-66 at home.
The game was finely balanced with 10 minutes to play (59-58), but Rishon outscored the visitors 19-8 in the final quarter for an important win.
Joe Crawford had 19 points for Rishon, with Adrian Uter adding 18 points and 11 rebounds, while Paul Delaney scored 19 points for Habika’a.
On Monday, Maccabi Tel Aviv hosts Barak Netanya.