Hapoel Jerusalem coach Danny Franco.
(photo credit: ODED KARNI/BSL)
Hapoel Jerusalem’s six-game BSL winning streak was snapped in stunning fashion on Saturday night by Maccabi Ashdod. Jerusalem hadn’t lost in league action in almost two months, while Ashdod is battling against relegation.
However, a Donta Smith turnover with three seconds to play doomed Jerusalem to a 77-74 defeat on Saturday and saw it drop to a 16-7 record.
Hapoel led by 15 points (25-10) at the end of the first quarter and took a nine-point cushion (59-50) into the final 10 minutes. However, it was outscored 17-0 by Ashdod to begin the fourth period, and despite fighting back in the closing minutes, Smith squandered its chance to complete a comeback and Jermaine Hall clinched Ashdod’s win from the free-throw line.
Ivan Aska led Ashdod (7-16) with 23 points and 13 rebounds, with Joseph Jones finishing with 18 points for Jerusalem.
On Sunday, Maccabi Tel Aviv (20-2) will aim to make it 17 straight BSL wins when it hosts Hapoel Eilat (10-12) ahead of Thursday’s crucial Euroleague showdown with Zalgiris Kaunas.
While the yellow-and-blue has continued to cruise in local action, its continental campaign has been derailed in recent weeks. Maccabi was outplayed in an 89-71 defeat to Barcelona in Spain on Thursday for its third defeat in the past four games in the competition, falling to 6-4. Maccabi dropped one game behind Barcelona in the battle for second place and homecourt advantage in the quarterfinal playoffs, but is still well positioned to finish among the top four in Group E and qualify for the last eight, holding a two-game lead over fifth place.
“After we beat Barcelona in Tel Aviv, I said I expected them to be up there with Real Madrid on top of the group,” said Maccabi coach Guy Goodes. “Everybody looked at me as if I was crazy, but you saw their quality on the floor. We deserve to be in the playoffs. Barcelona has the goal to finish first or second and our goal is to make it to the playoffs, doesn’t matter third or fourth. We were third last season and won the championship.”
Also Sunday, Hapoel Holon (13- 9) hosts Ironi Nahariya (9-13), Bnei Herzliya (9-13) visits Maccabi Rishon Lezion (12-10) and Ironi Ness Ziona (11-11) welcomes Hapoel Gilboa/Galil (5-17), which will be guided by new coach Ariel Beit-Halachmi for the first time.
On Monday, Hapoel Tel Aviv (12-10) hosts Maccabi Haifa (9-13).