Hap J’lem survives close call in opener

Bnei Hasharon takes Reds to extra period, but Strawberry leads hosts to tight triumph.

Naimi 311 (photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Naimi 311
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Hapoel Jerusalem survived a scare to get its BSL campaign off to a winning start on Monday night, beating Bnei Hasharon 99-96 in overtime at Malha Arena.
Bnei Hasharon outscored Jerusalem 30-15 in the first period and led for much of the game, even after the hosts erased the deficit with an 18-6 run to start the second half.
Yuval Naimi missed a lay-up that could have given Hapoel a win at the buzzer, but Jerusalem still claimed the victory after holding its composure the better of the two teams in the final minute of overtime.
“Our play in the first period was unacceptable,” Jerusalem coach Oded Katash said. “This isn’t the first time this has happened. We can’t allow ourselves to begin games this way. We must improve defensively, but it is important we still managed to clinch the win.”
D.J. Strawberry led Hapoel with 23 points, with Luke Jackson and Elishay Kadir scoring 17 points each and John Thomas adding 15 points.
Tweety Carter had 24 points for Bnei Hasharon, which also got 22 points from Kenny Lawson.
Bnei Hasharon could barely miss in the first quarter, with Carter especially unstoppable. The point-guard’s first three-point play of the night opened an eight-point lead (14-6) and his second extended the gap to 25-15 with just over a minute to play in the period.
Carter capped a sensational first frame with a three-pointer that gave the visitors a surprising 30-15 margin and Jerusalem struggled to cut the significant deficit before the break.
Naimi’s three-pointer brought Hapoel within 10 points (47-37) at halftime, but it would take the hosts just over four second-half minutes to complete a comeback, with Kadir scoring 11 points in Jerusalem’s 18-6 run.
Kadir’s basket with 5:50 to play in the third quarter gave Hapoel its first lead of the night (55-53) and there was very little to separate the teams for the remainder of the game.
After entering the fourth period tied at 64-64, Bnei Hasharon would open a slender lead it would hold onto until Jackson’s three with three minutes remaining gave Jerusalem a 79-77 advantage.
The visitors scored five straight points to move back in front, but Moshe Mizrahi’s triple tied the score (82-82) once more with 1:50 to go.
After a Carter miss, two more points from Kadir put Hapoel back in the lead, but Mizrahi would only score one of two free throws in Jerusalem’s subsequent possession and Lawson’s three with 13.3 seconds to play evened up the score. Naimi had a golden chance to win the game, but he missed a lay-up he really should have made at the buzzer and the encounter went into overtime.
Lawson’s three-point play gave the visitors a 93-91 advantage with 1:26 remaining.
However, Jerusalem would score the next six points, with Strawberry’s jumper with 32 seconds to play giving the hosts a crucial two-point lead (95- 93) they would convert to a first win of the season.