Hapoel J’lem wins battle of winless squads

Reds crush now 0-4 Ashdod for first victory of the campaign; Mac TA returns to winning ways over Haifa.

Hapoel Jerusalem vs. Maccabi Tel Aviv 311 (photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Hapoel Jerusalem vs. Maccabi Tel Aviv 311
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Hapoel Jerusalem finally got off the mark on Sunday, while Maccabi Tel Aviv returned to winning ways in the BSL with an emphatic 87-67 victory at Maccabi Haifa.
Jerusalem entered Sunday’s game against Maccabi Ashdod on the brink of crisis mode after opening the season with three straight defeats.
However, Ashdod, which also began its campaign 0-3, was the ideal opponent for the under pressure Hapoel, with Sharon Drucker’s team opening the night with a 15-2 run and never looking back on the way to a 90-71 win.
“We played as if we had 20 kilos on our backs in our last game so I told the players that they have to try and enjoy the game more,” a relieved Drucker said. “Clearly we were under pressure. We didn’t plan to begin the season like this.”
An 11-0 Maccabi Tel Aviv run put it in a commanding position in the first period at the renovated Romema Arena (30- 14), but the gap was just 10 points (47- 37) at halftime.
The hosts closed to within four points (52-48) in the third quarter and were still in the hunt with 10 minutes remaining (65-57).
However, Tel Aviv had no intention of falling to a second straight BSL loss after last week’s upset at the hands of Maccabi Rishon Lezion.
Haifa ran out of steam and scored just two points in the first seven-and-a-half minutes of the fourth quarter, allowing the yellow-and-blue to go on a gameclinching 13-2 surge (78-59).
David Logan led Tel Aviv with 19 points, six rebounds and six assists, while Giorgi Shermadini and Yogev Ohayon scored 11 points each.
Ido Kozikaro had 17 points and nine boards for Haifa, which fell to 2-2.
At Malha, Jerusalem got the start it was hoping for, with Uri Kukia’s basket opening an early 15-2 lead.
Ashdod, which had lost its previous three games by an average 16 points while allowing a league worse 86.3 points per contest, closed back to within six points (29-23) by the end of the first quarter. But Jerusalem scored the first six points of the second period to reestablish a double-digit margin and was in a commanding position at the break thanks to Jacob Pullen.
The young American guard was unstoppable from beyond the arc in the first half, hitting all five of his three-point attempts, with his final long-range basket of the period taking his personal tally to 18 points and giving Hapoel a 55-43 halftime gap.
Ashdod came no closer than nine points in the remainder of the game (60-51), with Hapoel ending the third frame with an 11-2 run (71-53) which rendered the final 10 minutes all but meaningless.
Pullen led six Jerusalem players in double-figures with 21 points, while Courtney Fells scored 15 and Craig Smith contributed 10 points and 10 rebounds.
Chris Allen had 18 points for Ashdod, which dropped to 0-4, losing yet again by double-digits.
Hapoel Gilboa/Galil joined Ashdod at 0-4 soon after, suffering an 86-80 overtime defeat at home to Hapoel Eilat (3- 1) and former coach Oded Katash.
Eilat had the edge (38-37) after a tight first half and was in control until Gilboa went on a 9-0 run to move ahead (73- 71) late in the game.
Austin Freeman’s basket forced overtime (73-73) and the visitors would score the first six points of the extra period as well to take a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
Jerome Tillman had 20 points for Eilat, with Freeman adding 18 points and 14 rebounds.
Rakim Sanders led Gilboa with 19 points and eight rebounds.
Hapoel Holon improved to 3-1 at the expense of Bnei Herzliya (2-2) on Sunday, claiming a 91-79 home win.
Herzliya opened a 31-21 gap after one period, but the hosts came right back to take a one-point edge (44-43) at the interval and never dropped the lead in the second half.
Tyler Smith and Jerome Dyson had 19 points each for Holon, with Jumaine Jones leading Herzliya with 21 points and 11 boards.
The BSL’s two remaining unbeaten teams will be in action on Monday, with Maccabi Rishon Lezion hosting Hapoel Tel Aviv and Barak Netanya visiting Ironi Ashkelon.