Maccabi Rishon Lezion’s Shawn Dowson.
(photo credit: ODED KARNI/BSL)
Maccabi Rishon Lezion booked a showdown with Hapoel Jerusalem in the BSL semifinals on Thursday night, while Maccabi Haifa forced a decisive Game 5 in its quarterfinal series against Hapoel Eilat.
Rishon, the No. 6 seed in the BSL playoffs, almost squandered a 24-point halftime lead, but ultimately held on to beat Hapoel Holon (3) 93-81 in a thrilling encounter and claim a 3-1 series win.
Rishon visits Jerusalem (2) in Game 1 of the best-of-five semis next Thursday.
Eilat (4) will host Haifa (5) in their series decider on Sunday for the final semifinal berth and the privilege of facing Maccabi Tel Aviv. Haifa leveled the quarterfinal series at 2-2 on Thursday, eking out a 69-62 victory at Romema Arena.
Moran Roth led Haifa with 17 points, while Brian Asbury had 16 points for Eilat.
In Rishon, the hosts raced to an early double-digit lead, outscoring Holon 30-15 in the first quarter. The gap eclipsed 20 points (44-22) for the first time following Tony Younger’s three-pointer midway through the second frame and Rishon looked to be cruising at the break, taking a 55-31 cushion into the second half.
However, Holon came storming back in the third quarter, steadily eating away at the margin to close within five points (68-63) by the start of the fourth frame.
A Jordan Taylor triple brought Holon within four points (81- 77) with four minutes remaining, but Rishon scored the next seven points to settle its nerves and clinch the series.
Isaiah Swann led five Rishon players in double-figures with 18 points, including four threes.
Taylor finished with 31 points for Holon.
Rishon coach Sharon Drucker believes there is little doubt regarding who will be the favorite in the series against Jerusalem.
“The differences between the teams are clear. Their two foreigners who sit out in each game would be stars on our team,” Drucker explained.
“We have already exceeded expectations and we will do our best in the semis.”