Basketball: Hapoel Jerusalem takes over top spot in BSL

Road rout of Ness Ziona gives Reds slight edge over Mac TA in standings despite two more losses.

April 28, 2015 05:19
2 minute read.
Hapoel Jerusalem forward Lior Eliyahu

Hapoel Jerusalem forward Lior Eliyahu. (photo credit: LIRON MOLDOVAN/BSL)


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Hapoel Jerusalem remained in the hunt for the No. 1 seed in the BSL playoffs on Monday night, beating Ironi Ness Ziona 78-60 on the road for its 12th win from the past 13 games.

The Reds improved to 22-7 – with Maccabi Tel Aviv at 23-5 having played one less game – after dominating in BSL action once more. Jerusalem established a double-digit gap (44-32) by the break and never looked back, taking its average margin of victory in the current six-game winning streak to 15.5 points per game.

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Lior Eliyahu finished with 18 points and six boards for Hapoel, with Mitchell Watt scoring 20 points for Ness Ziona, which fell to 13-16.

Only two games separate Ness Ziona in ninth place and Hapoel Holon in fourth with no team having more than five games left to play in the regular season.

On Tuesday, Hapoel Tel Aviv (14-15) hosts Maccabi Rishon Lezion (17-13) at the Drive-In Arena in a game brought forward by two days due to the handball international between Israel and Montenegro, which will be held at the same venue on Thursday.

Rishon can take a massive step towards wrapping up third place with a victory, which would be its sixth from the past seven contests.

Hapoel has lost its way since the passing of team manager Uri Shelef last month, winning its first game following his funeral but losing its following four contests by an average 14 points.

Tel Aviv has struggled on offense in particular, hitting 41 percent of its two-point attempts (17-of-41) and 15 percent (3-of- 20) from three-point range in last Friday’s 66-54 defeat at home to Hapoel Eilat.

Hapoel was well placed to go on and clinch the No. 3 seed in the playoffs before its recent losing streak, but is now in danger of completely missing out on the playoffs.

Tel Aviv signed Curtis Kelly last week in place of Jeronne Maymon, and has big expectations from the remainder of the campaign after also investing in the addition of Dijon Thompson two months ago.

“We need to win to start gathering momentum because we have only four more games left in the regular season,” said Hapoel coach Oded Katash.

“We are a lot better than our recent results indicate and we need to find a way to build our confidence.”

Kelly, who played for Hapoel in 2012/13 and spent most of this season at Maccabi Ashdod, believes the team will find its form in time for the playoffs.

“We have been through a difficult month,” Kelly said. “The team’s spirit was affected by the tragedy, but we will be okay and we will be ready for the playoffs.”

Week 30 action will be completed with five more games on Thursday.

Maccabi Tel Aviv hosts Bnei Herzliya, Ness Ziona visits Hapoel Holon, Jerusalem welcomes Hapoel Gilboa/Galil, Maccabi Ashdod faces Maccabi Haifa and Ironi Nahariya makes the long trip to Hapoel Eilat.

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