maccabi TA 88.
(photo credit: )
Terrence Rencher converted a clutch free throw with 17 seconds remaining and Nikola Vujcic missed a forced three-pointer with five left as Bnei Hasharon stunned perennial BSL champion Maccabi Tel Aviv 75-70 on Sunday in the biggest surprise of an action-packed Matchday 21.
In other games, Maccabi Rishon moved ahead of Ironi Nahariya for third place 85-71; Maccabi Givat Shmuel showed it won't go down without a fight as it beat Ramat Hasharon 80-71; and Ironi Ramat Gan defeated Elitzur Ashkelon 85-79.
Hapoel Jerusalem will hope to close the gap with Maccabi Tel Aviv to one game when it travels to Kfar Blum to face Hapoel Galil Elyon-Golan in the Matchday 21 finale on Monday.
The game will be a reunion for many on the Jerusalem squad, as head coach Erez Edelstein and assistant Erez Bittman both coached at Galil and Izik Ohanon and Ido Kozikaro both played there. Moreover, Kozikaro's father, Ya'acov, is now the chairman at Galil.
At Herzilya, Bnei Hasharon defeated Maccabi for the first time in team history.
With its most important game of the season just days away, Maccabi suffered from the same problems that doomed it last week in a Euroleague Quarterfinal Playoff loss at Olympiacos. Tel Aviv hosts Olympiacos in the third and deciding game of that series on Thursday night.
Maccabi was again held to 70 points and struggled on the boards. The hosts grabbed three offensive rebounds in the last two minutes to deny Maccabi a chance to tie the game. Eventually, Maccabi was forced to foul Rencher, who made one of two free throws to put Bnei Hasharon up 73-70.
Maccabi raced down court and when Anthony Parker couldn't get open to shoot, he shuffled the ball to Vujcic, who hoisted up a contested three-pointer from the corner that bounced out. Bnei Hasharon grabbed the rebound and Guy Pnini slammed the ball at the other end as the buzzer sounded to the delight of the home crowd.
Center Ousmane Cisse led Bnei Hasharon with 19 points and 13 rebounds, while Pnini added 16, Ugonna Onyekwe 15 and Rencher 13.
Will Solomon had 20 points for Maccabi, followed by Parker with 12 and Vujcic and Jamie Arnold - who started for the injured Maceo Baston - with 11 apiece.
"You've gotta credit Bnei Hasharon," Solomon said. "They played a great game and made the shots that they were supposed to make. I don't think we started out aggressive enough."
But Solomon is not concerned that this came will carry over against Olympiacos. "This game is out of our minds and we're preparing for Thursday," he said.
Team captain Derrick Sharp added, "Hopefully it's a blessing in disguise and it'll get us focused for Thursday."
The Bnei Hasharon players shared that sentiment. "I love Maccabi," Rencher said. "I gotta love friends on that team and wish them well in the Euroleague, but when we play them, it's a different story.
"I'm glad we were able to survive and good luck to them."
Maccabi had defeated Bnei Hasharon all 11 times they had met before Sunday, though the teams that merged to form Bnei Hasharon - Bnei Herzliya and Maccabi Ra'anana - had beaten Tel Aviv on numerous occasions over the years.
Maccabi Rishon 85,Ironi Nahariya 71
Rishon used a 10-0 run at the start of the second half to pull away for good. Lee Mathews led the way with a game-high 23 and Or Eitan drilled five threes on his way to 20. Omar Sneed added 18 points and 10 boards and Moran Roth chipped in 13 points and six assists.
Otis Hill scored 16 and Alvin Young 15 in defeat.
Maccabi Givat Shmuel 80, Ramat Hasharon 71
Last-place Givat Shmuel won its second in a row under new coach Ofer Berkovic, behind Timmy Bowers's 24 points. Wayne Wallace and Dror Cohen each scored 14 on 5-of-6 shooting, while new signing Amit Tamir added 10 points in 13 minutes in his debut for Givat Shmuel, which improved to 4-15 - just one game behind Ramat Hasharon, which got 19 from point guard David Logan.
Ramat Gan took a step away from the relegation zone and ended a nine-game losing streak thanks to a big night from Tunji Awojobi. The veteran big man had 31 points and 10 rebounds. Alvin Snow paced Ashkelon with 19 points, eight rebounds and five assists.