Local Hoops: Hap J'lem stuns Mac TA at Malha

Bowers' 27 and Sneed's double-double propels Reds over Israel's top team.

Hapoel Jerusalem 248.88 (photo credit: Asaf Kliger [file])
Hapoel Jerusalem 248.88
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger [file])
This wasn't just Maccabi Tel Aviv's first league loss of the season. Thursday night's 91-77 defeat at Hapoel Jerusalem was quite simply a sucker-punch which will have knocked much of the confidence out of an already shaky Tel Aviv team. Maccabi (3-1), which finished second in the league last season, lacked all the essential ingredients for a championship team - aggresive offense, disciplined defense and positive creativity. The home side (3-1), on the other hand, illustrated from the get go that they wanted it far, far more than their long-time rival, and at one point led by as many as 30 points. It was the 91st league meeting between the two biggest teams in Israeli basketball. Going into Thursday's match, Maccabi had won 80 of 90. After finishing in a sorely disappointing sixth position in the BSL last year, Hapoel rebuilt its personnel, brought in ex-Maccabi Tel Aviv assistant coach Guy Goodes as head coach and began the season with a more modest attitude but more hunger for success. And while this win won't ensure anything for the Reds, it will at least send a message to its opponents that Jerusalem is back on the map. Jerusalem's Timmy Bowers led all scorers with 27 points while his teammate Omar Sneed had a double double with 18 points and 12 rebounds. Carlos Arroyo scored 16 points to lead Maccabi. Buoyed by a noisy home support, Jerusalem was the far more aggressive team of the opening period, dwarfing its far more illustrious opponent. But last season's Euroleague runner-up was not going to be left behind and kept with it as the first quarter ended with Jerusalem 19-14 ahead. Although an Arroyo three for Maccabi closed the gap as the second quarter began, Jerusalem pushed on and Maccabi coach Effi Birenboim took a time out with just over two minutes gone in the second quarter as the home team opened up a 12-point lead (29-17). With the scores at 32-20 to Hapoel the hosts began to frustrate Maccabi, and some excellent defense prevented the visitors even taking a shot within the allotted 24 seconds. Wily point guard Moran Rot was the catalyst for the hosts, driving his team forward and picking up rebounds at the other end. Tel Aviv couldn't buy a basket, and the crowd couldn't believe it when Dror Hagag, who moved to Maccabi from Jerusalem in the summer, completely missed a three-point attempt while not one Hapoel defender attempted to block him, leaving Maccabi with a stunning 16-point deficit (36-20) five minutes before half time. Bowers even managed to extend the gap to 21 points when he sunk a three-point effort on the half time buzzer, moving his personal tally up to 16 points for the half and leaving Jerusalem 51-30 in front with 20 minutes played. When Travis Watson scored a free throw just over two minutes into the second half, Jerusalem was ahead by an incredible 30 points (60-30). Maccabi came out much stronger in the final period, cutting Jerusalem's lead to 15 points (75-60) with six minutes to play, but it was never going to be enough to save it from embarrasment.