Local Hoops: Pnini powers Hap J'lem to victory

Three clutch three-pointers in a row from Guy Pnini midway through the fourth quarter were enough to lead Hapoel Jerusalem to a 75-66 win over Bnei Hasharon.

Hapoel Jlem Basketball (photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Hapoel Jlem Basketball
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Three clutch three-pointers in a row from Guy Pnini midway through the fourth quarter were enough to lead Hapoel Jerusalem to a 75-66 win over Bnei Hasharon at Malha in the BSL on Sunday night. Just over a week before Dan Shamir's side faces Hapoel Holon in the State Cup semifinals at the Nokia Arena, the Reds showed what they are made of against one of their biggest rivals. Pnini led all scorers with 24 points in 39 minutes on court. Dror Hajaj also impressed for the home side with his defensive play. At the post game press conference Shamir told reporters what he had said to his players after the game. "Every basketball team has good and bad days, but we played special basketball this evening and it paid off. It is only a league win but an important one," Shamir said. Bnei Hasharon coach Effi Birenbaum was clearly disappointed with the result. "While our defensive game was ok the offensive game was not at the level needed to win at Malha," he said. "We couldn't get the momentum going apart from three or four minutes in the game and we need to improve because we were very weak." Also Sunday, Maccabi Tel Aviv won its third league game in three under Tzvika Sherf, 90-84 at Hapoel Galil Elyon, Ironi Ashkelon was thrashed at Afula/Gilboa 95-79 and Ironi Nahariya edged Maccabi Rishon Lezion 79-78. At Malha, although Jamie Arnold didn't play at all, and Sharon Sasson also sat on the bench injured throughout the game. The game started off with sloppy offense from both teams. After Timmy Bowers had scored with a dunk from the tip off for Jerusalem, his team did not get another basket until nearly five minutes into the half. By the end of the quarter the teams were tied at 17-17. A strong second quarter from Hajaj gave Hapoel a four-point lead at the half (38-34). Erez Marckovitch also impressed with his defensive play as the game wore on and the hosts had stretched their lead to seven points with 13 minutes to play. But the visitors again clawed their way back and Jerusalem was just three points ahead 10 minutes from the end. The final quarter was where the home side got it together and Bnei Hasharon just couldn't keep up. Pnini's threes combined with Marckovitch's play guaranteed the win for Jerusalem. Jason Williams scored 14 points for Bnei Hasharon. "We tried to come out and play hard but Jerusalem did a great job in the zone," Williams said. "I think we did some good things and some bad things. I know I had a lot of shots I missed but defensively they made all the hustle plays and they outplayed us." Hapoel Galil Elyon 84, Maccabi Tel Aviv 90 Tel Aviv led by seven points (16-9) after Marcus Fizer scored 10 quick points, but Galil hung around and trailed by a mere two points at the end of the first quarter (19-17). A superb start to the second period gave the hosts a 33-26 lead, but Maccabi would regain control of the encounter with a 13-0 run and was ahead by nine points at the break (47-38). Galil ate away at the visitors lead in the third quarter and was down by just two points with 10 minutes to play. A Derrick Sharp three-pointer regained Tel Aviv's double-digit lead, but Yogev Ohayon's triple with just over a minute left to play in the game would bring the hosts within two points once more (86-84). Hapoel had one last chance to take a dramatic lead with 40 seconds to play when Gili Mosinzon released a shot from beyond the arc. The ball, however, refused to drop and Maccabi held on for another win. Fizer led the winners with 22 points, with Yotam Halperin adding 19 points. Mosinzon scored 21 points and grabbed 10 rebounds for Galil. Ironi Nahariya 79, Maccabi Rishon Lezion 78 The hosts trailed by as many as 20 points in the second quarter and were still down by one point in the dying moments of the encounter. Thanks to Otis Hill, however, Nahariya completed a dramatic comeback with a buzzer beating winning basket. Hill scored 21 points for the winners, with Juan Mendez leading Rishon with 24 points.