Hapoel Jerusalem wins its first Israeli championship
Hapoel Bank Yahav Jerusalem made history on Thursday night when it defeated Hapoel Fattal Eilat 88-68 to win the Israeli League championship for the first time in club history. Jerusalem completed a two-game sweep of Eilat in front of a sold-out crowd at Pais Arena Jerusalem in the Israeli capital. Donta Smith collected 20 points, 10 rebounds and 6 assists and Bracey Wright also scored 20 to pace the winners. Eilat threatened early and led by 11 after the first basket of the third quarter, but Jerusalem went on a 20-2 charge and never looked back. Tony Gaffney added 11 points and 7 rebounds and Lior Eliyahu, who received his Israeli League MVP award prior to the game, tallied 10 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists. Eilat put the pressure on early as Brian Asbury led the visitors to a 0-6 start. Smith hated up and brought Jerusalem within 11-13. Eilat remained in front and a three-point play by Khalif Wyatt made it 14-21. The difference peaked at 8 and an Amit Simhon triple kept Eilat in control at 20-26 after 10 minutes. After Niv Berkowitz free throws extended the difference to 27-33, Smith helped fuel the hosts to within 33-36. Elishay Kadir’s final basket of the first half made it 36-44 and brought the aggregate score of the series to 116-109. Afik Nissim started the second half with a triple, but Jerusalem roared back as Eliyahu led a 10-0 run. Smith buried a three from the top of the key that tied it at 49-49 midway through the quarter and then Wright’s pull-up jumper in transition gave Jerusalem its first lead of the night. The hosts continued to pile it on and kept Eilat without another basket for nearly five more minutes. The lead grew to 63-54 at the end of the third quarter. The Jerusalem defense continued to hound Eilat, which scored just 3 more points in the first five minutes of the fourth quarter, while the fans in the Israeli capital started celebrating history. Adrian Uter led Eilat with 17 points and 11 rebounds and Wyatt and Simhon scored 12 apiece in defeat.