By ALLON SINAI
Maccabi Tel Aviv and Hapoel Jerusalem won once more in the BSL on Sunday night, but not before overcoming spirited challenges.
Maccabi improved its perfect start to the season to 9-0 with a 79-76 victory over Bnei Hasharon in Herzliya, while Jerusalem beat Ironi Ashkelon 77-74 on the road for its fourth straight league triumph.
"This is a superb victory," Hapoel coach Guy Goodes said. "It is not easy to win in Ashkelon and we showed our character tonight."
Also Sunday, Hapoel Gilboa/Galil beat Ironi Nahariya 77-67 and Ironi Ramat Gan fell to 0-9 on the season after a 79-70 defeat to Maccabi Rishon Lezion. On Monday, Barak Netanya hosts Hapoel Holon.
In Herzliya, the hosts closed to within a single point (40-39) after starting the second half with a 7-0 run, but Maccabi surged ahead, opening a 67-47 gap.
Tel Aviv seemed to be cruising to the victory when it led 74-57 three minutes into the final period, but Bnei Hasharon never gave up the chase and very nearly snatched the win at the death.
An 18-3 run got the hosts back into the game, cutting the deficit to a single possession with just under a minute to play (77-75).
After a Chuck Eidson miss, Bnei Hasharon had a chance to go into the lead, but Cookie Belcher turned over the ball and Doron Perkins made sure Tel Aviv won once again from the free-throw line.
Andrew Wisniewski led Maccabi with 18 points and five assists, with Eidson adding 11 points and six rebounds. Sean James had 20 points and eight rebounds for Bnei Hasharon, with Ron Steele and Dori Asaf scoring 16 and 14 points, respectively.
At Ashkelon, a 19-0 run, capped by a Corry Carr basket erased the entire deficit and put Ashkelon in the lead.
Ashkelon was in front at the break, albeit by a single point (35-34), and still had the lead with 10 minutes remaining (55-52).
Jerusalem was the more composed of the two sides in the final minutes, hitting 10 of 12 free throws in the closing two-and-a-half minutes to clinch the encounter.
Kukia scored 16 points for Hapoel, hitting seven of seven shots from the field, with Tre Simmons adding 15 points. Omar Sneed had 26 points, eight rebounds and five steals for Ashkelon, which has lost three consecutive games.
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