Local hoops: Haifa beats Netanya for 3rd straight win

Local Basketball Haifa

Maccabi Haifa continued its recent improvement on Sunday night, defeating Barak Netanya 84-70 on the road, while Maccabi Tel Aviv maintained its perfect start to the BSL season with a ridiculously easy 108-71 victory over Hapoel Afula. Since losing two of its first three games, the second by 35 points to Hapoel Gilboa/Galil, Haifa has won three straight, holding its opponents to 70 points or less in each of the victories. "Our defense is improving with every game," said Haifa coach Avi Ashkenazi, whose side has conceded an average 67.4 points in its last three games after allowing 101 points against Gilboa. "This is a very important victory." Davon Jefferson led Haifa with 20 points and seven rebounds. "We are playing better as a team," Jefferson said. "We are starting to understand each other better." Jason Rich scored 14 points, with Dror Hagag adding 12 points and seven assists. Marco Killingsworth and Tony Washam scored 17 points each for Netanya, which hit just two of 20 from beyond the arc. A tight first quarter ended in an 18-18 tie, but Haifa pulled ahead in the second period, opening a 44-33 lead at the break. Haifa remained comfortably in front after that and cruised to another victory. Also Sunday, Ironi Ashkelon won its third straight game, defeating Ironi Ramat Gan 92-86, with Bnei Hasharon beating Maccabi Rishon Lezion 84-79 to end a two-game losing streak. On Monday, Gilboa hosts the winless Hapoel Holon. At the Nokia Arena, Maccabi Tel Aviv began the game with an 11-0 run, but the visitors did not lose hope and closed to within two points (16-14) thanks to a Jermaine Hall basket. Tel Aviv extended its margin to double-digits once again by the end of the first quarter, with Alan Anderson's three-pointer giving the team a 34-23 lead. The gap mushroomed in the second period and the hosts all but clinched the win by the break, taking an unassailable 62-38 advantage into the interval. Raviv Limonad and Anderson led Maccabi with 17 points, with David Bluthenthal scoring 15 and Guy Pnini adding 13. B.J. Mckie had 21 points for Afula. At the Zisman Arena, Ashkelon began the game well, taking an early 13-3 lead. The hosts ended the first period with a 10-3 run to close to within five points (28-23), but were still trailing at halftime (48-40). Ashkelon continued to lead in the third quarter, taking a 69-63 advantage into the fourth period. Ramat Gan closed to within one point with six minuets to play in the game, but failed to complete a comeback and fell to a sixth straight loss. Moran Rot had 21 points for Ashkelon, with Omar Sneed adding 17 points and nine rebounds. Brandon Ewing scored 28 points for Ramat Gan. At Rishon Lezion, the hosts trailed for most of the first half, but led 40-37 at the break. Ron Steele's three-pointer meant Bnei Hasharon was still down by only three points (60-57) entering the fourth period and the score was tied at 79-79 with one minute to play. However, Bnei Hasharon scored the final five points of the game and sent Rishon to its fifth loss in six games. Cookie Belcher scored 17 points, with Sam Clancy adding 16 points and eight rebounds. Larry O'bannon led Rishon with 17 points.