Hapoel Jerusalem forward Lior Eliyahu.
(photo credit: DANNY MARON)
Hapoel Jerusalem matched its season-best winning streak with a fifth consecutive victory on Saturday night, taking another step towards securing the No. 1 seed in the BSL playoffs with an 89-78 triumph over Bnei Herzliya at the Jerusalem Arena.
The defending champion improved to 20-6 after beating the teams in second (Maccabi Tel Aviv), third (Maccabi Haifa) and fourth (Bnei Herzliya) in successive weeks, moving twoand- a-half games ahead of Maccabi Tel Aviv in the battle for first place.
Jerusalem led by just two points (42-40) after a tight first half, but looked to be heading to a comfortable win after opening a double-digit margin (65-55) at the start of the fourth frame. Herzliya moved back within a single possession (79- 76) with just under two minutes remaining, but Hapoel responded before it was too late to clinch the win.
Lior Eliyahu led Jerusalem with 19 points, nine rebounds and seven assists, with Eli Holman and Tony Gaffney adding 15 points each for Hapoel, which completed a 3-0 regular season sweep over Herzliya.
“We swept one of the better teams in the league,” said Eliyahu. “We are in good momentum and we want to build on this and remain in first place in the standings.
Even when we went through a bad period I always knew that we had a talented team and that we could turn it around.”
Drew Crawford scored 18 points for Herzliya, which fell to 14-12.
Also Saturday, Hapoel Holon continued its recent revival with a fifth win in the past seven games, beating Ironi Nahariya 88-76 to improve to 10-16.
Holon found itself caught up in the battle against relegation after winning just five of its first 19 games, but it moved back into contention in the playoff race thanks to Saturday’s win.
Holon led by a mere three points (45-42) at the interval, but effectively secured the win by outscoring Nahariya 30-11 in the third period.
Will Clyburn was superb for Holon once more, finishing with 27 points and 13 rebounds. Richard Howell had 20 points for Nahariya, which fell to 14-12.
On Sunday, Maccabi Tel Aviv (17-8) hosts Maccabi Haifa (15- 10) and Hapoel Eilat (12-13) visits Maccabi Ashdod (11-14).
On Monday, Ironi Ness Ziona (7-18) hosts Maccabi Rishon Lezion (13-12) and Hapoel Tel Aviv (10-15) welcomes Maccabi Kiryat Gat (9-16).