Rishon completes comeback to advance
Ashkelon sent packing with third consecutive defeat; Hap TA clinches BSL berth.
HAPOEL TEL AVIV guard Demontz Steet Photo: Adi Avishai
Maccabi Rishon Lezion clinched the fourth and final berth to next week’s BSL
Final Four on Wednesday night, beating Ironi Ashkelon 77-63 to complete a 3-2
series win, becoming the first Israeli team to come back from a 2-0 deficit in
Despite entering the playoffs on an eight-game losing
streak, Ashkelon surprised Rishon in the first two games of the series and came
tantalizingly close to booking its place in the Final Four in Game 4, losing an
overtime heartbreaker at home.
There was also very little to separate the
teams in the first half on Wednesday, but a 14-0 run in the third quarter
inspired by role player Amit Ben-David saw Rishon build a game-winning
“This is an amazing moment,” said the 34-year-old Ben-David, who
ended the night with 16 points. “Even when we were down 2-0 in the series we
always believed we could to it.”
Brandon Bowman had 17 points and 11
rebounds for Rishon, which will face Maccabi Ashdod in next Tuesday’s
Maccabi Tel Aviv will play Hapoel Holon in the second semi of
Marco Killingsworth led Ashkelon with 23 points and 11 boards in
“This is very disappointing,” said Ashkelon coach Eric Alfasi.
“But we didn’t lose the series tonight, we lost it at home in Game
The lead exchanged hands time and again in the first half on
Wednesday, but neither team managed to open a significant gap and Ashkelon held
a threepoint cushion (33-30) at the break.
Ashkelon limited Rishon to
just five points in the first five minutes of the second half, allowing the
visitors to open a 42-35 advantage with Jamie Skeen’s basket.
Ben-David’s introduction off the bench midway through the period turned the game
on its head, with the hosts going on a 14-0 run in less than four minutes to
seize control of the encounter for good.
Earlier Wednesday, the
resurrection of Hapoel Tel Aviv was completed when the Reds thrashed Maccabi
Be’er Ya’akov 83-56 to secure their promotion to the BSL with a 3-1 win in the
National League playoff finals.
Formed by fans in the summer of 2007
under the name of Hapoel Ussishkin following the demise of their beloved Hapoel
Tel Aviv and the demolition of the Ussishkin Arena, the club gained promotion
with every season until last year when it was stunned in the finals by BC
Habika’a, missing out on automatic promotion.
Nevertheless, Hapoel, which
in December 2009 took over the name and heritage rights of the original Hapoel
Tel Aviv team after it was officially liquidated, was offered a place in the
top-flight, with the BSL knowing the addition of the club would add much needed
color to the faltering league.
But the fan-owned club eventually decided
to earn its place in the BSL by merit and not by virtue of political
considerations and on Wednesday it returned to its rightful place with a
comfortable win over Be’er Ya’akov.
Hapoel began the game with a 12-2
run, but the hosts closed to within one possession (23-20) by the end of the
However, Tel Aviv outscored Be’er Ya’akov 28-11 in the
second period to open a 20-point cushion (51-31) from which the hosts could not
Curtis Kelly scored 19 points for Hapoel, with Demontz Steet
adding 15 and Cory Carr contributing 13.
Chris Watson had 14 points for