Hapoel Jerusalem’s season is still alive, but it can’t afford to let up, with a visit to Maccabi Haifa coming up on Monday night and the team from the capital still trailing 2-1 in the BSL bestof- five semifinal series.
Jerusalem battled to a 70-63 win over Haifa at Malha Arena on Friday afternoon to avoid a humbling sweep. However, Hapoel still requires two more wins this week to become just the third team to come back to win a series from a 0-2 deficit since the format was introduced in Israel in the 1989/90 season.
Haifa beat Jerusalem 107-79 in Game 1 at Malha to snatch home-court advantage away from the No. 2 seed before impressing once more in an 82-70 win in Game 2 at Romema Arena. The defending champion will have an opportunity to close out the series at home at Romema on Monday, but Jerusalem has other plans.
Despite losing center Art Parakhouski and forward Lior Eliyahu for the season through injury in recent weeks, Jerusalem eked out a victory on Friday thanks in large to Bracey Wright.
The American guard ended the afternoon with a game-high 25 points, including 10 points in a tight fourth quarter.
Jerusalem got off to the start it was hoping for on Friday, with Wright’s basket opening an early nine-point lead (12-3). A three-point play by Wright took Hapoel’s gap to 11 points (17-6), but Haifa scored the final five points of the first period to limit the damage.
Haifa closed to within a single point at the break (28-27) after holding the hosts to 11 points in the second quarter. The Greens took their first lead of the afternoon midway through the third frame courtesy of Brian Randle’s basket (36-34).
There was still very little to separate the teams entering the fourth quarter, with Jerusalem taking a two-point edge (46-44) into the final 10 minutes.
A dramatic final frame would ensue, with Haifa’s Moran Rot squandering an opportunity to tie the score with 58 seconds remaining, failing to complete a four-point play after missing from the free-throw line (63-62).
Haifa would score just one more point until the final buzzer and Hapoel hit six consecutive shots from the line to avoid elimination.
“We knew we would have a tough time and we just weren’t good enough,” said Haifa coach Danny Franco. “We were slightly over-motivated and I have no complaints towards my players who gave their all.
We felt we could finish the series here, but hopefully we will do so at home on Monday.”
Earlier Friday, Amiram Halevi was chosen as the Israel Basketball Association’s new chairman. Halevi received 27 of 37 votes from the IBA’s board and will fill the position vacated by Danny Halutz. The IBA had been without a chairman since March following Halutz’s resignation after just seven months in the job.