Hapoel Jerusalem guard Yotam Halperin.
(photo credit: DANNY MARON)
Maccabi Tel Aviv and Hapoel Eilat became the first teams to book their spots in the BSL Final Four on Thursday night, while defending champion Hapoel Jerusalem moved within one win of joining them.
Tel Aviv completed a 3-0 victory over Bnei Herzliya in the playoff quarterfinals with an easy 81-54 win at Yad Eliyahu Arena. Eilat swept Ironi Nahariya thanks to an 86-85 triumph on the road, with Khalif Wyatt scoring the go-ahead basket from beyond the arc with 8.9 seconds to play.
Jerusalem took a 2-1 lead with a 90-73 home win over Hapoel Tel Aviv and can secure its progress to the season-ending tournament that will be played at its home arena in Game 4 in Tel Aviv on Sunday. Tel Aviv snapped Jerusalem’s 13-game winning streak to tie the series earlier in the week, but Jerusalem dominated Game 3 from start to finish, opening the night with a 15-2 run and never losing control.
Yotam Halperin led five Jerusalem players in double figures with 19 points, while Tre Simmons had 24 points for Tel Aviv.
If necessary, Game 5 will take place in Jerusalem next Wednesday.
The winner of the series will play Eilat in the Final Four.
On Friday, Maccabi Rishon Lezion brings a 2-0 lead to Game 3 at Maccabi Haifa. Maccabi Tel Aviv awaits the winner of the series.
The game at Yad Eliyahu Arena began after an emotional ceremony in which the late Kevin Magee and Nate Huffman were inducted into the club’s Hall of Fame.
Huffman passed away at the age of 40 last October, only several weeks after discovering he was ill with terminal cancer. In three seasons with Maccabi (1999-2002), he helped the team to three local championships, three State Cups and one European FIBA SuproLeague title in 2001.
Magee, who died in a car accident in 2003, played for Maccabi for six seasons (1984-1990), winning six championships, five Israeli cups and helping the team to three consecutive European finals (1987-1989).
Itay Segev had 12 points and seven rebounds for Maccabi on Thursday, which pulled ahead with an 11-1 second-quarter run (38-23) and never looked back.
Drew Crawford netted 15 points for Herzliya, which suffered its eighth consecutive loss stretching back to the regular season.
At Ein Sara, Eilat held an eightpoint margin (41-33) at the break and remained in control until the host went on a late 14-2 run, opening what seemed like an unassailable six-point gap (84-78) with 47 seconds to play.
However, Nahariya imploded, allowing Wyatt to give Eilat the lead and celebrate a sweet win after Nahariya’s Gilbert Brown missed at the buzzer.
DeAndre Kane led Eilat with 23 points, with Wyatt finishing with 18 points and 10 assists.