Hapoel Jerusalem guard Bar Timor.
(photo credit: DANNY MARON)
Hapoel Jerusalem edged closer to securing the No. 1 seed in the BSL playoffs on Sunday night, registering its sixth straight win by overcoming Maccabi Rishon Lezion 81-66 on the road.
Jerusalem improved to 21-6, two games ahead of Maccabi Tel Aviv with six regular season games to play. Even should Maccabi triumph in its final six contests, Hapoel only requires four wins from its remaining games as it holds the tiebreaker against Maccabi, sweeping the yellow- and-blue 3-0 in the regular season.
The team that finishes the regular season in first place will host the season-ending Final Four tournament to decide the champion in June.
After a tight start on Sunday, Jerusalem scored the final seven points of the first half to take a double-digit cushion (42-31) into the break. Hapoel’s lead reached 17 points before a 17-3 Rishon run cut the deficit to just three points (53-50). The hosts trailed by six points (61-55) entering the final 10 minutes, but Jerusalem allowed Rishon no closer, scoring the first seven points of the final frame and never looking back.
Tony Gaffney led five Jerusalem players in double figures with 16 points, with Bar Timor scoring 13.
Darryl Monroe had 23 points and 12 rebounds for Rishon and Chris Wright netted 21 for the hosts, who fell to 13-14.
Rishon has still got plenty of work to do to secure its place in the playoffs, with Sharon Drucker’s side to find itself only two games from falling out of the top eight who will qualify for the post-season regardless of Monday’s result between Hapoel Eilat and Hapoel Tel Aviv.
The battle for playoff berths is set to go down to the wire, with six teams fighting for five places. Only three games will separate Bnei Herzliya in fourth place and ninth position in the standings following Monday’s action, with Eilat having the possibility to move tied with Herzliya at 14-13 with a victory over Hapoel.
Eilat has won four of five games and Monday’s showdown holds a special significance for coach Oded Katash, who was sacked by Tel Aviv earlier this season.
Tel Aviv has won only one of its past six road games, surprisingly against Maccabi Tel Aviv. Its last triumph away from Tel Aviv was back on January 2.