Hapoel Jerusalem stumbles out of the gate

Reds fall at home to Ashdod; Mac Rishon, Hap Eilat victorious in season openers.

David Blu 370 (photo credit: Adi Avishai)
David Blu 370
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Despite entering the season with new owners, a new coach and new players, some things seem to never change at Hapoel Jerusalem.
Hapoel showed promising signs in the pre-season Winner Cup last week, giving Maccabi Tel Aviv a run for its money before succumbing in the final.
Maccabi Ashdod, meanwhile, looked to be in real trouble after some discouraging performances in the lead-up to the season.
However, a 17-4 run in the closing minutes saw Ashdod record a stunning 83-80 win at Malha Arena on Sunday, with Austin Freeman scoring 11 straight points to end the game and Jerusalem choking in what has become typical fashion in recent seasons.
“I’m definitely disappointed,” said Jerusalem’s new coach Brad Greenberg.
“[Ashdod] played a terrific game and they made clutch shots. But one game isn’t going to determine the season.”
Earlier Sunday, Maccabi Rishon Lezion, which replaced its coach just last week, won at newly promoted Ironi Ness Ziona 86-77 and Hapoel Eilat defeated Hapoel Gilboa/Galil 80-76.
At Malha, the lead went back-andforth throughout the first half, but Jerusalem still seemed to be in control with a 45-42 advantage at the break.
Ronald Dupree’s basket took Hapoel’s margin to eight points (74-66) midway through the fourth quarter, but Ashdod clawed its way back just when it seemed that the hosts had all but secured the victory.
Freeman carried Ashdod on his shoulders, giving the visitors their first lead of the fourth period (77-76) with 1:27 minutes to play before hitting two consecutive three-pointers, the second of which with 13 seconds remaining, to shock Malha.
Freeman ended the night with 22 points, with Kenny Hayes scoring 16.
“I had chances and I took them,” explained Freeman. “I believe in the team. We stuck together when times got tough and we got the win.”
Dupree and Elishay Kadir had 17 points each for Jerusalem, while Elishay Kadir and youngster Adam Arial scored 14 points each.
Rishon’s rough off-season seemed to be taking its toll in the first quarter at Ness Ziona, with the hosts opening a five-point gap (20-15) after the first 10 minutes.
However, Ness Ziona would take almost seven minutes to score its next point, with Rishon racing to a stunning 23-0 run to open an 18-point margin (38-20).
The visitors still held a 15-point lead (43- 28) at halftime after outscoring Ness Ziona 28-8 in the second period, but the hosts fought back and closed to within just four points (63-59) early in the final frame.
However, Rishon, guided for the first time by Matan Harush following Roni Bosani’s resignation last week, would score the next nine points to reestablish a double-digit cushion (72-59) and secure its first victory in 2013/14.
Promising 19-year-old Israeli guard Shawn Dowson led Rishon with 20 points and five rebounds, while veterans Ricardo Marsh and Dror Hagag added 18 and 16 points, respectively.
Tyler Honeycutt had 26 points and 13 boards for Ness Ziona, with Tal Dan scoring 15 points.
Eilat was forced to toil far more than expected to overcome Gilboa in Gan Ner.
A 13-0 Gilboa run saw the hosts seize the initiative (65-63) early in the fourth quarter, but Eilat would go on an 8-0 surge at a crucial moment to move back in front (75-71) for good.
Afik Nissim led Eilat with 20 points and seven assists, with Christian Watford scoring 17 points and Kevin Palmer and Terrence Roderick contributing 14 points each.
Rick Jackson had 17 points and nine rebounds for Gilboa.
On Monday, Maccabi Tel Aviv visits Hapoel Holon while Hapoel Tel Aviv hosts Bnei Herzliya.
Maccabi will rest Devin Smith ahead of its Euroleague opener at Laboral Vitoria on Thursday, with David Blu set to make his return after one season away from the court.