Local Hoops: Jerusalem, Mac TA sharpen form

Coaches Goodes and Gershon inspire big wins head of next week’s crucial European ties.

chuck eidson dunks 311 (photo credit: BSL)
chuck eidson dunks 311
(photo credit: BSL)
Maccabi Tel Aviv and Hapoel Jerusalem will enter their crucial midweek European encounters in high spirits after claiming easy victories in the BSL on Saturday night.
Maccabi defeated Hapoel Holon 104-87 at the Nokia Arena, improving to 17-1 in local league play ahead of Tuesday’s Euroleague quarterfinal series opener against Partizan Belgrade.
Tel Aviv, which will also host the second game of the best-of-five series on Thursday night, was never in any danger of losing on Saturday, allowing coach Pini Gershon to rest his stars ahead of the games against Belgrade.
“The players are enjoying themselves and that is a situation you want to be in at this stage of the season,” Maccabi assistant coach Sharon Drucker said. “We split the minutes between the players and everyone ended the game healthy so we are pleased.”
Jerusalem boss Guy Goodes was also able to leave his starters on the bench for much of Saturday’s game, with Hapoel crushing Ironi Ramat Gan 107-71 at the Malha Arena.
Jerusalem, which had lost three of its previous four BSL games, including its last two, hosts Alba Berlin in the first game of the Eurocup quarterfinals on Wednesday before visiting Germany for the return leg a week later.
“We want to reach the Eurocup final four, but the league is our bread and butter and we need to continue and win to ensure we have home-court advantage in the playoffs,” Goodes said.
“We’ve struggled mentally in the BSL, but we have the capability to also do well in the league.”
Maccabi Tel Aviv 104, Hapoel Holon 87
At the Nokia Arena, Holon led for much of the first quarter, only for Tel Aviv to end the period with a 12-0 run to take a 30-21 advantage after 10 minutes.
A David Bluthenthal three-pointer at the start of the second frame extended the gap to 15 points (36-21), and despite the visitors closing to within three points (42-39) midway through the quarter, Tel Aviv was still comfortable enough (52-43) at halftime.
Maccabi ended any illusion Holon had of mounting a comeback by opening a 79-59 gap at the end of the third period and had no trouble holding on for another straightforward league victory.
Bluthenthal scored 16 points for Maccabi, with Stephane Lasme and Andrew Wisniewski adding 13 points each. John Thomas scored 19 points for Holon, which has lost three straight games.
Hapoel Jerusalem 107, Hapoel Ramat Gan 71
At Malha, the visitors took a surprise early lead, with Chris Watson’s basket opening a 7-2 gap. The hosts would, however, quickly move into the lead and Yogav Ohayon’s two points ensured Hapoel was well ahead (21-13) after 10 minutes.
An 11-0 run to start the second period gave Jerusalem a stranglehold on the encounter and the hosts all but clinched the victory by the break, opening a 48-24 margin.
Hapoel continued to cruise in the second half, leading at one stage by 43 points (95-52), allowing Goodes to give his stars a breather ahead of Wednesday’s game against Berlin.
Kevinn Pinkney scored 17 points for Jerusalem, which shot 72 percent (31 of 43) from two-point range. Yuval Naimi added 16 points and Dijon Thompson contributed 15 points and 11 rebounds. Gary Forbes had 23 points and eight rebounds for Ramat Gan.
Three more BSL games will be played on Sunday, with Hapoel Gilboa/Galil hosting Bnei Hasharon, Barak Netanya visiting Maccabi Rishon Lezion and Ironi Ashkelon welcoming Hapoel Afula.
Maccabi Haifa hosts Ironi Nahariya on Monday.