The second round of the Balkan League was held tonight (Saturday) in which four teams entered the circle of games. Ness Ziona and Maccabi Haifa recorded a second loss at each factory, Maccabi Rishon Lezion recovered from the loss to Hapoel Jerusalem when they won in Be’er Sheva and Hapoel Tel Aviv opened its way on the right foot, with a victory over newcomer Bnei Herzliya.
Bnei Herzliya – Hapoel Tel Aviv 87:78
About a month after being eliminated from the FIBA Champions League qualifiers, the Reds returned to play in Israel and although they lost a double-digit advantage created thanks to their excellent second quarter, they eventually came out on top. Herzliya recorded its first loss after beating Hapoel Haifa in the previous round. Hapoel Tel Aviv opened with 0: 8 with and kept the gap even after Kuti Clark put the home team on the board, but Gaines led a 1: 8 run which led to the difference shrinking to just one point at the end of the first quarter, 15:16. The visitors improved in the following minutes, with almost every player of theirs taking part in the celebration, led by Bar Timor with 12 points in the first half which ended in 36:48 for his team.
The gap increased to 16 at the beginning of the third quarter, but Herzliya woke up and returned with a 0:10 run that brought it closer to only minus five. Daniel Kuperberg and Yonatan Moore took care to take down Hapoel Tel Aviv with a 58:66 advantage before the last 10 minutes. Herzliya started the last quarter in a frenzy and completed a 0:13 run that started at the end of the previous quarter, on the way to the first advantage of the game – 66:68. Kuperberg stopped the drift, Yam Madar buried three and Walter Lemon Jr. signed an outburst that closed out a 0-7 run and put the Reds in plus five. Clark and Frank Gaines reduced the lead to a point again, but Lemon Jr. sniped off the arc, Timur provided an assist to Jonathan Moore and added his own basket that set a 78:83 minute to go, and from there Herzliya failed to come back.
Hapoel Beer Sheva – Maccabi Rishon Lezion 96:85
A debut victory for Guy Goodes’ team in the Balkans, at the expense of Rami Hadar’s team that lost its first game in the fourth house. The visitors led by five points in the opening and later again ran away with a six-point lead, but the Reds from the Negev went out for a 0:11 run and became 22:28 at the end of the first 10 minutes. The gap increased by a point at the beginning of the second quarter, but Rishon Lezion minimized damage towards the half and shrank to 45:42. In the third quarter, the runner-up opened the scoring and gained a 12-point advantage, Beer Sheva still offset a bit but could not get close until the end and went down defeated.
As in the first round, Isaiah Taylor and Achilles Mitchell gave a show that this time also ended in victory, scoring 25 points each. Daryl Monroe added 16 and Golan Gutt 14. Caleb Agada finished with 27 on the other side, alongside 15 by Spencer Weiss and 14 by Games Banks.
Hapoel Eilat – Urbani Ness Ziona 90:93
Ariel Beit Halachmi passed his first official game on the lines of the Southerners and did so successfully, while Brad Greenberg’s team has remained without a win in the Balkans so far. The Oranges started well and gained a seven-point lead thanks to good minutes from Nimrod Levy, but Eilat returned with a 0:10 run and took the lead at the end of the quarter, 17:19. Ness Ziona remained close in the second quarter as well and went down to half a point behind, 43:42. The hosts ran away with a plus eight in the third quarter, but the Oranges returned to a tie and continued to gain a five-point lead in the final quarter. At this point, Ben Carter, who starred in the ranks of Eilat, took command and led his team to another turnaround on the way to victory.
Carter recorded an impressive double-double of 24 points and 12 rebounds, Casey Prather contributed 21, Josh Nibo scored 14 and Joe Ragland 11. On the losing side, Devion Berry finished with 22 points, Kwan Chitham added 18 and Patrick Miller 16.
Maccabi Haifa – Urbani Nahariya 86:80
The battle of the Northerners in House B ended in the victory of the Purples, in their debut at the factory. On the other hand, Daniel Savannah’s team is already counting two losses. The advantage swayed from side to side in the first half, where the host came back once from minus eight and a second time from a nine-point deficit, when Nahariya went down by 38:39 at the break. The swing continued until the middle of the fourth quarter, where the Purples’ 0:11 run opened a 10-point gap and closed out interest.
Kaylin Lucas stood out in the winning ranks with 21 points and six assists, Joe Alexander (eight rebounds) and Jaron Blossomgim (nine rebounds) scored 16 each. Devon Scott added 11 and Or Leumi 10. For the Haifa team, Chris Dow again excelled with 22 points that did not prevent a loss this time as well, Arun Valdz provided 15, Avi Ben Shimol scored 14 and Roman Sorkin 11.
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