A three-point play by Donta Smith with 2.7 seconds to play gave Maccabi Haifa a 79-76 victory over Maccabi Rishon Lezion at Romema Arena on Sunday night.

Haifa improved to 11-6 with its fifth BSL win in its past six games despite losing Ike Ofoegbu to what looked like a serious knee injury in the first quarter.

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Rishon controlled much of the first half, leading by as many as 11 points (33-22) following an 11-2 run capped by a Brian Hopkins basket midway through the second quarter.

Haifa ended the half with an 11-2 surge of its own to close within just two points (35-33), but Rishon opened a double- digit gap (56-46) once more in the third quarter, ultimately taking a four-point (59-55) margin into the final 10 minutes.

The lead went back and forth in the fourth frame and the contest was only decided as the buzzer neared.

With the score tied at 76-76, Haifa’s Ido Kozikaro blocked Jake Cohen and Moran Roth found Smith for the winning play at the other end.

The superb Smith ended the night with 20 points, eight assists and seven rebounds, with Dagan Yavzuri scoring 13 points. Tasmin Mitchell had 19 points for Rishon (5-12), which has lost four of five games and continues to struggle even under the guidance of new coach Tzvika Sherf.

Elsewhere, Hapoel Eilat bounced back from a 20-point loss to Haifa by beating Maccabi Ashdod by 20 points, 83-63, on Sunday.

Eilat opened the game with a 12-3 run, but Ashdod fought back to tie the score (19-19) by the end of the first quarter and took a three-point lead (43-40) into the interval.

However, Eilat clinched the win by outscoring the hosts 24-6 in the third period (64-49) before also netting the first seven points of the fourth frame to pour salt on Ashdod’s wounds.

Afik Nissim had 18 points for Eilat (9-8), with Elijah Millsap and Kenny Hayes scoring 15 points apiece for Ashdod, which fell to 3-14 and returned to losing ways after claiming its first win since November last week.
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