Jerusalem reduces deficit against Nahariya

Hapoel closes to 1-2 with win in Game 3; Top two seeds, Holon and Eilat, in danger of being eliminated.

June 4, 2017 04:49
2 minute read.
Hapoel Jerusalem Amar’e Stoudemire

Hapoel Jerusalem center Amar’e Stoudemire (right) had seven points and five rebounds in his first game for the team in almost four weeks in Friday’s 84-75 win over Ironi Nahariya. (photo credit: DANNY MARON)

Hapoel Jerusalem’s season is still alive after it beat Ironi Nahariya 84-75 in Game 3 of their BSL quarterfinal series on Friday, cutting its deficit in the best-of-five series to 2-1.

Nahariya entered Friday’s game in Jerusalem with the aim of completing a stunning sweep against Hapoel after winning the series opener on the road with a three-pointer at the buzzer and claiming a 77-64 victory at home in Game 2 last week.

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Jerusalem didn’t have it all its own way on Friday either, but managed to eke out a victory to push the series to a fourth game, which will be played in Nahariya on Monday.

Only two teams have ever come back from a 2-0 hole in BSL playoff history, Hapoel Eilat against Maccabi Tel Aviv two years ago and Maccabi Rishon Lezion versus Ironi Ashkelon in 2012.

Jerusalem got off to a fast start on Friday, taking a double-digit margin (26-15) into the second quarter. The hosts seemed to be cruising until Nahariya went on a 7-0 run in the final three minutes of the half to close to within seven points (45-38) at the break.

Nahariya moved to within just three points (52-49) in the third frame, but could come no closer, and Jerusalem held on for the vital win.

Jerome Dyson led five Jerusalem players in double figures with 18 points. Richard Howell added 16 points and 12 rebounds, with Amar’e Stoudemire finishing with seven points and five rebounds in his first game in almost four weeks.

Jonathan Skjoldebrand had 18 points for Nahariya, which can still wrap-up the upset at Ein Sara Arena on Monday.

If necessary, a decisive Game 5 will be played in Jerusalem on Thursday.

On Sunday, the top two seeds in the playoffs will have to win on the road to avoid surprising exits in the quarterfinals. No. 1 Hapoel Holon and No. 2 Hapoel Eilat battled all season for home-court advantage in the playoffs, but their impressive regular season campaigns could end up proving to be worthless as they both enter Game 4 on Sunday trailing 2-1.

Maccabi Haifa, which only qualified for the playoffs on the final day of the regular season, can become the first No. 8 seed to knock out a top seed in BSL playoff history when it hosts Holon at Romema Arena.

Holon looked to be running out of ideas in Game 3, something coach Dan Shamir will have to address if the No. 1 seed has any intention of sending the series to a decisive Game 5 that will be played in Holon on Thursday, if necessary.

“Haifa deserves a lot of credit for the way it has played, but we still have a chance to make amends,” said Shamir. “We need to win or we go home. This is the time for us to show our character.”

Reigning champion Rishon, which hosts Eilat on Sunday, seems to be hitting top form at the perfect time once again, taking the lead over Eilat with a 70-63 win in Israel’s southernmost city on Thursday after triumphing by 26 points in Game 2 at home.

Eilat has lost four of five games overall after previously winning 15 of 17, but coach Oded Katash is not losing hope.

“We have proven to ourselves this season that we can achieve a lot even when the odds are against us,” said Katash. “We have another chance to show our character by winning Game 4.”

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