Hapoel Tel Aviv clinched a place in the BSL top four and home-court advantage in the quarterfinal playoffs after edging rock-bottom Maccabi Ashdod 86-82 in a tighter-than-expected contest at Hadar Yosef Arena on Monday night.
Hapoel notched its third straight win to improve to a 14-8 record and cap an impressive regular season campaign.
The league was split in two after all 12 teams completed their 22-game schedule on Monday. The top four - Maccabi Tel Aviv, Hapoel Jerusalem, Maccabi Haifa and Hapoel Tel Aviv - will duel for position in the next few weeks, playing each other twice more after already securing home-court advantage in the quarterfinals, which will begin at the end of April. The bottom eight sides will face one another once more for the four remaining playoff berths. The team in last place will be demoted to the National League.
Hapoel Tel Aviv would have dropped out of the top four had it lost to Ashdod and Ironi Ness Ziona beaten Hapoel Eilat.
However, the Reds of Tel Aviv staved off a feisty Ashdod to ensure they required no favors, even though Ness Ziona ultimately lost to Eilat.
Ashdod led by eight points (74-66) midway through the final frame, but Hapoel recorded a 16-4 run (82-78) at the crucial moment to secure the victory.
Carlon Brown led Hapoel with 27 points, while Raviv Limonad scored 20 points, ensuring he has still netted at least 15 points in all 17 of the BSL games he has played this season.
Kenny Hayes had 26 points for Ashdod (4-18), with Marcus Dove adding 25 points and 14 rebounds for Eric Alfasi’s side, which remained two games adrift of safety.
Eilat (13-9) beat Ness Ziona (12-10) 67-56 on the road, seizing control with a 14-0 run at the start of the second half.
Kevin Palmer had 18 points for Eilat, while Meir Tapiro scored 16 points for Ness Ziona.
Earlier Sunday, Maccabi Tel Aviv (18-4) registered its 13th consecutive BSL victory, crushing Barak Netanya (7-15) 89-66 at Nokia Arena behind 32 points from Sylven Landesberg.
The contest was as good as over after 10 minutes, with Maccabi ending the first period with a 22-2 run to open an unassailable 19-point gap (30-11).
Landesberg also had five rebounds and five steals, connecting on 12-of-18 field-goal attempts, including five three-pointers. David Blu added 12 points for Maccabi, which won without Devin Smith, Alex Tyus and Yogev Ohayon, who were all rested ahead of Thursday’s Euroleague game with Zalgiris Kaunas.
Antoine Wright led Netanya with 18 points.
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