Hapoel Jerusalem falters in season opener

Bnei Hasharon claims home conquest; Ashdod all over Ashkelon; Haifa holds off Holon.

311_Hapoel Jerusalem baskteball (photo credit: FIBA EUROPE website)
311_Hapoel Jerusalem baskteball
(photo credit: FIBA EUROPE website)
Hapoel Jerusalem got its BSL campaign off to the worst possible start on Monday, losing 81-76 to Bnei Hasharon in Herzliya.
After failing to make the BSL final in the past three seasons, Jerusalem brought in coach Oded Katash and overhauled its roster in the hope of challenging Maccabi Tel Aviv for the championship. However, Monday’s performance was anything put impressive and left Katash with plenty to ponder ahead of the rest of the season.
“We had the momentum, but it just wasn’t our night,” Katash said. “We are still in the beginning of the road and know we have plenty of work to do. We are focusing on the future.”
Bnei Hasharon’s victory was especially impressive as it had to manage without the injured Lee Nailon and Sharon Sasson.
“We didn’t play our best basketball, but it is nice that we still managed to win,” coach Dan Shamir said.
Filberto Rivera led the hosts with 19 points, with Shawn James adding 17 points and 14 rebounds. Ben Rice also scored 17 for Bnei Hasharon, which won despite shooting just two of 24 from three-point range.
Brian Randle had 27 points and 10 rebounds for Jerusalem, with Yuval Naimi scoring 19.
Also Monday, Maccabi Ashdod beat Ironi Ashkelon 79-69 and Maccabi Haifa defeated Hapoel Holon 84-81.
In Herzliya, Bnei Hasharon began the game brightly, opening an early 12-3 margin.
Hapoel, however, would come right back, and was down by just one point (21-20) after 10 minutes.
Jerusalem was struggling offensively, but fortunately for Katash, Randle was keeping his team in the game, scoring 17 points in the first half, which ended with the hosts still holding a small lead (37-36).
After a tight start to the half, Hapoel opened a nine-point gap (59-50) towards the end of the period, only for Bnei Hasharon to score the final five points of the quarter.
Nothing could separate the teams in the first seven minutes of the fourth frame, with Naimi’s basket tying the score at 68- 68 with just over three minutes to play.
However, Shamir’s men would score the next five points and would hold on for a victory over a favored Jerusalem team.
In Rishon, where Holon will be hosting its home games until its arena is approved, Hapoel got off to the better start and had a five point edge (22-17) after 10 minutes.
A Kasib Powell basket increased Holon’s lead to double-figures (35-24), but Haifa scored 12 of the final 16 points of the first half and was down by just a single point (41-40) at the break.
The momentum was well and truly on Haifa’s side at the start of the second half, with Elad Hasin’s men going on a 16-0 run during the third period and outscoring the hosts 29-10 in the quarter to take a commanding 18-point gap (69-51) into the final 10 minutes.
However, Holon never gave up the chase and Moran Rot’s three-pointer with less than two minutes to go brought the hosts within two points (79-77).
Dror Davidi and Robert Hite had chances to tie the game in the closing seconds, but they both missed from beyond the arc and Haifa held on for the confidence-building win.
Marco Killingsworth scored 16 points for the winners, with Avi Ben-Shimol and Larry O’Bannon adding 13. Rot led Holon with 21, while Rich Melzer contributed 17 points and 10 rebounds.
In Ashdod, the newcomers got off to a nervous start and found themselves in a 14-point deficit (19-5) midway through the first period.
The hosts came back to take a 30-29 advantage halfway through the second quarter, but scored just two points in the final four minutes of the half, allowing Ashkelon to lead by seven at the interval (39-32).
Ashdod didn’t need long to tie the score and had a five-point edge (58-53) entering the final period. The visitors kept fighting but clutch points by Meir Tapiro ensured Ashdod got its first BSL campaign off to a dream start.
Josh Carter led Ashdod with 23 points, with Ramel Bradley adding 12.
Tim Pickett and Thomas Terrell had 17 points each for Ashkelon.