Hapoel Jerusalem and Hapoel Eilat joined Maccabi Tel Aviv in the BSL playoff semifinals on Thursday night, while defending champion Maccabi Haifa dropped to a humbling defeat and will have to survive a decisive Game 5 against Ironi Ness Ziona to secure its progress.
Jerusalem eked out a 75-74 victory at Hapoel Holon to secure a 3-1 series win, with Holon guard D.J. Kennedy missing a freethrow attempt with 0.5 seconds to play which could have sent the game into overtime.
Eilat beat Hapoel Tel Aviv 83-73 at home to complete a 3-1 series victory and set up a semifinal meeting with Maccabi Tel Aviv. Game 1 will be played in Tel Aviv next Thursday.
Jerusalem will next face the winner of the series between Haifa and Ness Ziona, with Haifa to host Game 5 on Monday. Ness Ziona crushed Haifa 92-65 on Thursday.
After a tight first half ended with Holon ahead by a single point (37-36), Jerusalem seized control in the third quarter.
Despite playing without the injured Art Parakhouski and the sick Josh Duncan, Jerusalem locked Holon down, going on a 15-3 run in the first seven minutes of the second half (51-40). An 11-0 Holon run saw the hosts move back in front (67-65) entering the final four minutes, setting up a tense finish. But a crucial Derwin Kitchen three-pointer put Jerusalem back ahead (72-69) and the visitors breathed a huge sigh of relief after Kennedy missed from the line.
Bracey Wright led five Jerusalem players in double figures with 19 points, with Scottie Reynolds scoring 22 points for Holon.
In Eilat, the game went back and forth in the first three quarters before the hosts opened the fourth period with a 10-2 run to build a 10-point gap (70-60) which Tel Aviv never came close to erasing.
Yancy Gates led Eilat with 18 points and eight rebounds, with Kevin Palmer and Elishay Kadir adding 16 points each.
Raviv Limonad had 20 points for the fan-owned Tel Aviv, which made significant progress this season despite its defeat in the quarterfinals.
The home teams have so far dominated the series between Haifa and Ness Ziona, with the Greens winning Games 1 and 3 by an average 14 points and Ness Ziona triumphing in Games 2 and 4 by 23.5 points per contest.
Diamon Simpson led Ness Ziona with 19 points on Thursday, while Donta Smith had 16 points for Haifa.
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