Local Hoops: J'lem, TA get big early season wins

Hapoel downs Ramat Gan; Maccabi beats Kiryat Ata ahead of Thursday's BSL face off.

Hapoel Jerusalem 224.88 (photo credit: Roi Levy [file])
Hapoel Jerusalem 224.88
(photo credit: Roi Levy [file])
Maccabi Tel Aviv and Hapoel Jerusalem will enter Thursday's showdown brimming with confidence after strolling to victories in the BSL on Sunday. Tel Aviv showed no lasting effects from the thrashing at the hands of Olympiacos last Thursday, crushing and outplaying a weak Ironi Kiryat Ata team 88-56 at Nesher. Hapoel trounced Ironi Ramat Gan 105-90 at the Malha Arena, which will also be the site of the first encounter of the season between Israeli basketballs big two on Thursday night. "We're coming to win. Our goal is to be unbeaten at Malha this season," Hapoel guard Moran Rot said about the upcoming game against Maccabi. "If we believe we can do it then we can. This is a good time to catch Maccabi because the season has just begun." Maccabi coach Effi Birenboim is also looking forward to Thursday's game. "Playing in Jerusalem is always difficult, but we will be ready," Birenboim said. Also Sunday, Hapoel Holon improved to 3-1, defeating Maccabi Rishon Lezion 79-71 on the road. An 11-4 run to end the first half opened a 47-40 Holon lead, but Rishon never gave up and four straight points by Gili Mosinzon gave Rishon a 60-59 advantage with just over four minutes to play in the game. Holon would have the last laugh, however, scoring 16 of the next 22 points to open an unassailable lead on its way to a third win in four games. Curtis Withers led Holon scoring 14 points, with Luis Flores and Deron Washington adding 13 and 12 points respectively. Mosinzon scored 21 points for the still winless Rishon. Newly promoted Maccabi Givat Shmuel continued its impressive start to the season, recording its third straight victory on Sunday, defeating Ironi Ashkelon 76-70 at Or Yehuda. Jermaine Hall led the hosts with 18 points and nine rebounds, with Steffon Bradford adding 15 points and eight rebounds. Ashkelon's Steve Burtt, who averaged 30.3 points per game before Sunday, was held to 18 points by Givat Shmuel, the league's surprise package so far this season. At Nesher, Carols Arroyo was back in the lineup after missing the game against Olympiacos with a back complaint, but Maccabi could have also easily managed without its Puerto Rican playmaker. Kiryat Ata led briefly at the start of the game, but at no stage threatened Tel Aviv's far superior roster. A 26-11 first quarter lead mushroomed into a 20-point margin (44-24) at the break, and Birenboim made the most of the opportunity, giving his bench players a run-out in the meaningless second half. Arroyo came within one rebound of a triple-double, scoring 11 points, passing 11 assists and grabbing nine rebounds. Tre Simmons top scored for Maccabi, contributing 13 points, with Erez Kohansky scoring 18 points for the hosts. At Malha, a tight first period ended in a 27-25 Ramat Gan lead, but a 22-6 Hapoel run in the final five minutes of the first half gave the hosts a stranglehold on the encounter. Rot's three-pointer capped the run to give Jerusalem a 17-point margin and the side led 59-45 at the interval. Ramat Gan would come no closer than within eight points (60-52) in the second half, allowing Goodes to rest some of his key players ahead of Thursday's game against Maccabi. Sharon Shasson hit five of seven attempts from beyond the arc, leading six Hapoel players in double-figures with 20 points. Travis Watson added 18 points and seven rebounds, with new signing Roger Powell scoring 17 points. Carmelo Lee led the losers with 29 points. On Monday, Ironi Nahariya hosts Bnei Hasharon.