Jerusalem, Bnei Hasharon score easy Game 1 victories

Jerusalem had lost in two of its three previous meetings with Ashdod this season, including an 86-78 defeat at Malha just two weeks ago.

Oded Katash 311 (photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Oded Katash 311
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Hapoel Jerusalem opened the BSL playoffs in convincing fashion on Thursday night, thrashing Maccabi Ashdod 90-66 at Malha Arena to take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-five quarterfinal series.
Jerusalem had lost in two of its three previous meetings with Ashdod this season, including an 86-78 defeat at Malha just two weeks ago.
However, Oded Katash’s team looked to be far more composed for the start of the playoffs, and after an erratic first half, outscored Ashdod 27-9 in the third period on its way to an easy win.
“I enjoyed three of the four quarters when we stuck to our game plan and played good defense,” Katash said. “We didn’t play well enough in the second period and our lack of concentration combined with a good game by Ashdod got them back into the contest. This is only the first game of the series and I have no doubt that we will face some tough encounters.”
Dion Dowell had 16 points for Jerusalem, with Oliver Lafayette scoring 18 for Ashdod, which hosts Game 2 next Thursday.
A 12-0 run capped by a Dowell three-pointer gave Jerusalem an 18-10 advantage and the hosts were in control after 10 minutes, leading 29-16.
However, Hapoel completely lost its way in the second quarter and a Lorenzo Gordon basket completed a 14-2 Ashdod run, giving the visitors a 35-33 lead.
There was nothing to separate the teams at the break (39-39), but Jerusalem once more found its range in the third period and Ashdod was helpless.
Hapoel was hitting its shots from beyond the arc, and the hosts all but clinched the win with 10 minutes remaining, leading 66-48.
Also Thursday, Bnei Hasharon took a 1-0 lead in its series against Maccabi Rishon Lezion, claiming a 91-82 victory in Herzliya.
Rishon got off to a bright start and opened an early eight-point lead (13-5), but the hosts replied with an 8-0 run to tie the score and outscored Effi Birenboim’s men 24-11 in the second period to take a stranglehold on the game (49-32).
Filiberto Rivera led six Bnei Hasharon players in double-figures with 20 points, with Aaron McGhee scoring 20 points for Rishon, which will be desperate to win Game 2 at home next Wednesday.
Also Thursday, Maccabi Haifa took a 1-0 lead in the relegation playoffs, beating Ironi Ashkelon 74-67 at Nesher.
After three tight quarters the score was tied at 48-48, but a 12-1 run to start the final frame gave Haifa a double-digit margin it wouldn’t relinquish on its way to an important victory.
Frank Robinson led Haifa with 15 points and 13 rebounds, with Gur Porat having 18 points and 10 rebounds for Ashkelon, which ended the regular season with 12 defeats in 14 games and continued to struggle on Thursday.
On Saturday, Maccabi Tel Aviv visits Barak Netanya, looking to take a 2-0 lead in its series in what will be its final game before next Friday’s Euroleague Final Four semifinal against Real Madrid.