Local hoops: Hapoel Jerusalem wilts in 4th quarter

Last year's BSL runner-up in a tough position after Bnei Hasharon defeats Shamir's team by a comfortable 96-88.

Hapoel JM 298.88 (photo credit: AP)
Hapoel JM 298.88
(photo credit: AP)
Hapoel Jerusalem is in deep trouble. After a disappointing ULEB Cup performance last week, Effi Birenboim's Bnei Hasharon defeated Dan Shamir's team by a comfortable 96-88 margin, putting last year's BSL runner-up in a tough position. "It's not looking good right now," said Hapoel Jerusalem's Meir Tapiro after the Matchday 4 loss. "I won't say it's only because of our foreign players, but we are playing poorly. "Bnei Hasharon are a great team and they deserve credit for the win. There's a long season ahead and we have to start playing harder in order to collect points." Ironi Ramat Gan edged Hapoel Galil Elyon-Golan 116-114 in overtime, while league leader Ironi Nahariya recorded an easy 114-70 win over visiting Maccabi Rishon Lezion. Or Eitan's clutch three-pointer gave Elitzur Ashkelon a dramatic 80-79 victory over Hapoel Afula/Gilboa. Reigning BSL champion Maccabi Tel Aviv hosts Givat Shmuel on Monday night to wrap up Matchday 4. Bnei Hasharon 96,Hapoel Jerusalem 88 Jerusalem coach Dan Shamir, willing to shake up his rotation, benched starter Ed Cota in favor of fan-favorite Meir Tapiro. The visitors' leading scorer, Matan Naor, had to leave the game just minutes after tipoff with a hand injury. Naor was taken to the locker room for treatment and did not return. Hapoel made a quick 6-0 run in the second quarter and opened up a 42-35 lead, but Bnei Hasharon star Lee Nailon buried a series of uncontested mid-range jumpers to help his team back into the game. Jerusalem failed to keep up the pace and went into halftime with a narrow 46-44 lead. Bnei Hasharon's physical center, Ousmane Cisse, started crashing the boards after the break, producing some big plays in the post and forcing Mario Austin into foul trouble midway through the third quarter. However, Hapoel's Dror Hajaj responded with good percentage play and Jerusalem led 65-63 going into the final period. Tapiro gave Jerusalem a 77-76 lead with four minutes on the clock, but the hosts retaliated with a lethal 16-4 run, spurred by two three-pointers by Jewish-American sharpshooter Scott Greenman. Nailon finished another great night for Bnei Hasharon with 27 points, four rebounds and six assists. Cisse scored 15 points and veteran guard Moshe Mizrahi added 13 points. Ironi Ramat Gan 116,Galil-Golan 114 (OT) Ramat Gan had a great start by locking down the visitors' top scorers and led 31-20 at the end of the first quarter. Nothing changed in the following period as the hosts raced to a promising 52-38 halftime advantage. Sasha Bratic exploded for Galil-Golan in the second half and single-handedly led a heroic comeback, which eventually sent the game into overtime following a 101-101 score at the end of 40 minutes. John Allen led Ramat Gan with 32 points. Elitzur Ashkelon 80, Hapoel Afula/Gilboa 79 Afula/Gilboa couldn't have hoped for a better performance against a tough visitor, as it punished Ashkelon's careless defense to race to a 50-35 lead at halftime. The hosts held a 70-54 advantage going into the fourth quarter, but Ashkelon took control and systematically cut into the deficit. Ashkelon trailed 79-77 in the final minute, but Eitan stunned the home crowd with a three-pointer for a dramatic win. Ironi Nahariya 114, Ironi Rishon Lezion 70 Nahariya came out determined and held a 55-38 lead at halftime. The visitors from Rishon were unable to break the hosts' rhythm, enabling Nahariya to drill high percentage shots. The league leader - at least until Maccabi Tel Aviv faces last-place Maccabi Givat Shmuel on Monday - used the final period to test some its young players, who had no problems in sealing the win.