After an impressive regular season, Hapoel Gilboa/Galil and Maccabi Rishon
Lezion face the unthinkable prospect of being swept in the BSL quarterfinal
playoffs on Thursday.
Gilboa ended the regular season standings in second
place with a 16-9 record and looked to be a clear favorite to overcome the
stuttering Maccabi Ashdod (12-12) in the best-of-five series.
Ashdod’s decision to take its foot off the gas after securing the No. 7
seed has paid off better than coach Ofer Berkowitz could have expected, with his
team winning the series opener in Gan Ner before taking a 2-0 lead with a 75-69
home victory on Monday.
“Nothing is over yet and that is the only way we
can approach this game,” said Gilboa coach Lior Lubin after seeing his team lose
its second straight nail-biter to Ashdod.
“We lost control and were
punished for that. We will have to make sure we are composed so that we can stop
Ashdod’s runs. A lack of composure has cost us dearly in this series.”
Israeli team has ever come back from a 2-0 deficit to advance to the Final Four
and Ashdod’s Josh Carter, who is averaging 22.0 points and 4.5 rebounds in the
playoffs so far, has no intention of allowing Gilboa to become the
“We will be going all out in Game 3,” Carter said. “Gilboa is a
good team and I hope we can beat them again on the road.”
is also playing against history after dropping the first two games in its series
against Ironi Ashkelon, each by a single point.
Rishon entered the
playoffs brimming with confidence after winning five of its final seven regular
season games, but coach Effi Birenboim was infuriated following Game 2, feeling
that the referees robbed his team for a second straight time.
isn’t over yet,” said Birenboim after his team fell to a 2-0 deficit, with Niv
Berkowitz clinching Ashkelon’s win from the line with 0.6 seconds to
“I watch basketball from across the world and there should not have
been a foul called on Berkowitz. I feel bad for my players. They keep getting
frustrated by critical calls from the refs. It is my job to lift them ahead of
Ashkelon ended the regular season with eight straight defeats,
six of them by double-digits, but just like Ashdod, it now finds itself within
one win of a first ever appearance in the Final Four.
“We are one win
away from history and we need to try and clinch the series in Rishon,” Ashkelon
coach Eric Alfasi said. “I don’t think the refs decided Game 2. We deserved to
win because we were far better.”
While it would hardly be a surprise
should Gilboa and Rishon force a fourth game with a home win on Thursday, it
seems all but certain that Maccabi Tel Aviv will become the first team to book
its place in the Final Four when it hosts BC Habika’a at Nokia
After winning Game 1 by 23 points, Maccabi thrashed Habika’a by 35
earlier this week and Habika’a coach Avi Ashkenazi already summarized his team’s
season after its recent humbling, explaining that there would not be a Game
“I don’t think anyone will put money on us winning in Nokia,” he said.
“We had a reasonable season, but it could have been better.”
At least one
series is guaranteed to only be decided next week, with Hapoel Jerusalem hosting
Hapoel Holon on Thursday, knotted at 1-1.
So far, each team has won at
home, with Jerusalem edging Holon 78-73 in Game 1 in Malha Arena before Dan
Shamir’s men defeated Sharon Drucker’s side 72-70 to tie the series.
were well placed to take a 2-0 lead, but we missed free throws, which is
something you cannot afford to do in games like this,” Drucker said. “We made
some bad decisions and it cost us the game. We start afresh on Thursday and we
will have to continue and work as hard as ever.”