Hapoel Tel Aviv guard Nate Robinson (right) drives past Ironi Nahariya's Michael Umeh (left).
(photo credit: ERAN LUF)
A Matan Naor three-pointer with 1.5 seconds remaining gave Hapoel Tel Aviv an 81-78 win over Maccabi Kirayt Gat at the Drive-In Arena on Monday night, moving the team tied with Maccabi Ashdod in eighth place in the BSL standings which will lead to the playoffs at the end of the regular season.
After Nate Robinson’s thrilling debut, Hapoel was brought back down to earth with a painful double-overtime loss at Ironi Nahariya last week.
It almost suffered another heartbreaking loss on Monday, but Naor’s triple ensured the special night, which began with a ceremony to mark a year since the tragic passing of team manager Uri Shelef at the age of 43 from a cardiac arrest, ended on a sweet note.
Alando Tucker’s three with 24 seconds to play tied the score (78-78), but Robinson found Naor with time and space on the edge of the arc and the veteran guard sank the winning shot to the delight of the local fans.
“This is a very important win for us,” said Naor, who hit another crucial three with 44 seconds to play that gave Hapoel a 77-75 advantage.
“We were under a lot of pressure after last week’s painful loss and I’m happy we won.”
Raviv Limonad led Hapoel (11-15) with 22 points, with Jeff Allen adding 15 points and 15 rebounds, while Robinson scored 11 points.
“The loss to Nahariya could have broken the team and we showed a lot of character,” said Hapoel coach Sharon Avrahami.
Tucker had 20 points for Kiryat Gat, which fell to 9-17, just one game ahead of Ironi Ness Ziona in last place, which will lead to relegation to the National League at the end of the season.
Also, Ness Ziona improved to 8-18 on Monday after snapping a six-game losing streak with a dramatic 89-88 overtime win over Maccabi Rishon Lezion (13-13).
Ness Ziona’s last win came against Rishon Lezion at the start of February, but the hosts eked out a crucial victory to boost their survival hopes.
Ivan Aska’s jumper with 9.6 seconds left tied the score at 80-80 and Rishon’s Shawn Dawson missed a chance to win the game in regulation.
Sundiata Gaines put Ness Ziona ahead with 13.5 seconds to go in the extra period and Rishon couldn’t hit the basket with its final attempt.
Gaines had 25 points, seven rebounds and six steals for Ness Ziona, with Aska finishing with 22 points. Darryl Monroe led Rishon Lezion with 29 points and 11 boards.