Local Basketball: The power of Malha - Jerusalem can't stop winning at home

Jerusalem is now the only team in the BSL which can say it is undefeated at home this season.

hapoel jerusalem 298.88 (photo credit: www.hapoel.co.il)
hapoel jerusalem 298.88
(photo credit: www.hapoel.co.il)
Hapoel Jerusalem coach Guy Goodes calls it "The Power of Malha." He can call it whatever he wants, but Jerusalem is now the only team in the BSL which can say it is undefeated at home this season. After Maccabi Tel Aviv's single-point loss to Ironi Ashkelon on Saturday, Hapoel became the only team this season that has yet to lose on its home court the following day. The only team to come within two points of ending Jerusalem's unbeaten winning streak at home has been Ironi Nahariya. In their first match-up, Hapoel beat the team from the North in dramatic fashion with a 93-92 victory on January 11. Jerusalem had an onslaught of six players score in double-figures that simply could not be stopped. Just a little over three months later, during Sunday night's Game 1 of their quarterfinal playoff series, Nahariya guard Ron Lewis gave Hapoel everything it could handle and more. But, in the end, Lewis could not help his team pull off a victory on the road. Lewis's and his teammates will get its third shot at dethroning Jerusalem from its perfect season at home in Game 3 on May 7. Goodes believes one of the reasons for Hapoel's home court advantage is its fans. Despite playing in a small stadium with room for just 2,200 people, the Goldberg Arena traps in a lot of the noise and distracts the opposing team. It also gives a boost to his players towards the end of the game when, they need it most. "I think fans are pushing us throughout the entire game and it's good for the players," Goodes said following the 78-76 win over Nahariya. "It gives them energy, especially when they're tired." If there's any team thatr knows the effect Malha Arena has on the opposition it's Maccabi Tel Aviv. The No. 1 seed in the BSL could not keep up with a 32-point onslaught in the second quarter by Jerusalem and ultimately lost by its largest margin all season, 14 points, when the two teams met at Malha in the second game of the regular season. Maccabi, which is typically the top shooting team in the league from three-point range, shot 30 percent in that 91-77 defeat. Hapoel forward Roger Powell noted after Sunday's win that the fans have played a major role in the team's regular season run. "We have the best fans in the league," Powell said. "We try to play really hard for them." One of the biggest factors for Jerusalem in playing at home is its ability to score. Its average at Malha Arena is 86.1 points per game, 10 points higher than on the road. It's why, following the Game 1 victory, Powell's mood was pretty sober for going up 1-0 against a team that knows how to challenge Jerusalem. "As a team, we're not satisfied," Powell said of his side's lack of scoring. "We have to take this one, refocus and get ready for the next game because as you saw, this team fights." Hapoel's scoring in Game 1 was the lowest it has been at Malha all year. The team's previous lowest home point total of the season came March 22 against Galil/Gilboa in an 81-74 win. Now is certainly not the right time for Jerusalem to struggle with making shots. Lewis had two open opportunities at the end of the game. Had either gone in, the stadium's power that Goodes describes so fondly would be gone. If there is any team that is capable of figuring out how to beat Hapoel at home, it's Ironi. Goodes has just over a week to make sure that doesn't happen.