Hapoel Eilat took a significant step towards securing the No. 5 seed in the BSL playoffs after claiming its fifth straight victory on Monday night, beating Ironi Ness Ziona 88-86 in Israel’s southernmost city.

Eilat improved to a 15-9 record, two games ahead of Ness Ziona in sixth place, taking control of Monday’s contest with a 12-0 fourth-quarter run before holding off the visitors in the final minute.

Afik Nissim led Eilat with 19 points, with Kevin Palmer scoring 17 for the hosts and Yancy Gates adding 14 points. Diamon Simpson had 28 points and 10 rebounds for Ness Ziona, with Tyler Honeycutt finishing with 18 points and 10 boards.

Despite suffering its second defeat in two weeks to Eilat, Ness Ziona (13-11) has already effectively advanced to the playoffs, holding a six game lead over Barak Netanya in ninth position with six regular season games to play.

Ness Ziona stormed to a 10-2 lead at the start of Monday’s encounter, but Eilat ended the first frame with an 11-2 run to close to within two points (27-25).

A tight second quarter would ensue, with Eilat taking a four point cushion (42-38) into the break. There was just a single point separating the teams ahead of the final 10 minutes, with the hosts leading 68-67.

However, Eilat would go on a 12-0 surge to open a 10-point gap (84-74) and held on for a crucial victory.

Muli Katzurin’s tenure at Bnei Herzliya went from bad to worse on Monday after his team dropped to a dejecting 80-55 home loss to Hapoel Holon.

Herzliya capitulated from the first whistle, allowing 21 unanswered points to start the game. Herzliya only finally scored its first points on the night after almost nine minutes, but it never came close to mounting a comeback, netting a season low 20 points in the first half (41-20).

Brian Asbury had 17 points for Holon, which improved to 11-13 in its first game under the guidance of coach Elad Hasin following Lior Lubin’s resignation last week.

Aviram Zelikovic led Herzliya with 13 points. Herzliya dropped to its third defeat in a row since Katzurin replaced Effi Birenboim as coach, suffering its 12th loss from the past 13 games.

After only managing 64 and 66 points, respectively, in its first two games under Katzurin, Herzliya set a new season low on Monday, leaving it just one game above last-placed Maccabi Ashdod and the relegation zone.

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