Resurgent Hap J’lem keeps on truckin’

Reds rout Rishon; Mac Haifa climbs out of cellar with buzzer-beater to beat Ashkelon.

Dwayne Mitchell (dunking the ball) (photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Dwayne Mitchell (dunking the ball)
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Hapoel Jerusalem continued to build momentum ahead of the BSL playoffs on Sunday night, claiming its fifth league win in six games with an 87-75 victory at Maccabi Rishon Lezion.
Jerusalem seized control of the game by outscoring Rishon 28-15 in the second period and had little trouble wrapping up the victory in the second half.
“I feel that we are improving with every week and I think that we are heading in the right direction,” Jerusalem coach Oded Katash said. “I was very pleased with our defense tonight. We could have played better offensively, but this was a tough road game and we did our job.”
Jason Rich had 17 points for Jerusalem, with Yuval Naimi scoring 12 and Brian Randle adding 12 points and 11 rebounds in 26 minutes in his second game back from injury.
Dwayne Mitchell had 27 and nine rebounds for Rishon, which has lost four straight games.
A tight first period ended in a 15-14 Rishon lead, but Jerusalem found its range in the second quarter and the hosts were helpless.
A 20-1 run gave the visitors a 15-point cushion (40-25) and Hapoel led 42-30 at the break.
Jerusalem increased its margin to 17 (56-39) by the midway point of the third frame, but Rishon came back with a 7- 0 run to close within 10 points.
However, Hapoel extended its gap to 65-50 by the end of the third quarter and cruised through the final 10 minutes on the way to another league win.
Meanwhile, Bnei Hasharon remained just one game back of Jerusalem after recording an 82-73 home victory over Hapoel Holon on Sunday.
Dan Shamir’s men held a slender margin after 10 minutes (18-14) and all but clinched the win by outscoring Holon 29-16 in the second period on the way to a 47-30 halftime lead.
“It was very important to win today after last week’s loss to Jerusalem,” said Bnei Hasharon coach Dan Shamir, whose team had won four straight games before losing to Maccabi Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
“We played hard from the first moment and I’m pleased with that.”
Dan Grunfeld and Ron Steele had 16 points each for Bnei Hasharon, with Shawn James putting up another impressive performance under the baskets, scoring 12 points, hauling down 17 rebounds and blocking five shots.
Rich Melzer had 22 points for Holon, which has now lost three straight games after an inspiring run of four wins in five contests.
Maccabi Haifa climbed off the bottom of the standings on Sunday night, beating Ironi Ashkelon 74-72 thanks to Jermaine Jackson’s buzzer-beater.
Haifa had occupied the basement of the BSL table for the last few months after winning just two of 16 games. But it has now claimed two of its past three encounters and with still four more games to go until the end of the regular season, has still got an outside chance to sneak into the playoffs.
Haifa built a 42-32 margin by the break, but with 10 minutes to play was ahead by just a single point (59-58).
The hosts seemed to be in control when they led 72-66 with two minutes to go, but a Dror Hagag layup tied the score for Ashkelon with 18 seconds remaining, only for Jackson to clinch the win for Haifa in dramatic fashion.
Frank Robinson led five Haifa players in double-figures with 12 points, with Rashon Turner scoring 21 points and taking 11 rebounds for Ashkelon, which has lost nine of 10 games and replaces Haifa in last position.
Barak Netanya, which is one point ahead of Haifa, visits Maccabi Ashdod on Monday.
The game between Hapoel Gilboa/Galil and Maccabi Tel Aviv was postponed to April 17 to allow the yellow-and-blue to prepare for Game 3 of its Euroleague quarterfinal playoff series against Caja Laboral Vitoria on Tuesday.