Maccabi Tel Aviv forward Quincy Miller (right) scored a game-high 19 points in last night’s series-clinching 105-68 home win over Karam Mashour (left) and Bnei Herzliya..
(photo credit: ADI AVISHAI)
Maccabi Tel Aviv became the first team to advance to the BSL Final Four on Thursday night, while reigning champion Maccabi Rishon Lezion moved within a victory of a return to the season- ending tournament with a win at Hapoel Eilat.
Tel Aviv entered the playoffs on the back of eight defeats from 10 BSL games, but the addition of coach Arik Shivek in place of the sacked Ainars Bagatskis has reinvigorated the team.
Maccabi completed a 3-0 sweep of Bnei Herzliya in the quarterfinals on Thursday with a resounding 105-68 win at Yad Eliyahu Arena.
The yellow-and-blue beat a short-handed Herzliya by an average 25.7 points per game in the series and awaits in the Final Four semis the winner of the series between No. 1 seed Hapoel Holon and Maccabi Haifa.
Haifa holds a 2-1 lead over Holon and can become the first No. 8 seed to knockout a top seed in BSL playoff history when it hosts Game 4 at Romema Arena on Sunday.
Maccabi led by only six points after 10 minutes (18-12), but a 10-0 run in the second quarter saw it take a 16-point gap (51-35) into the interval. Tel Aviv scored 18 of the first 22 points of the second half to take its cushion to 30 points (69-39) and secure the win with over a quarter still to play.
Quincy Miller led Maccabi with 19 points and six rebounds, with Victor Rudd adding 16 points. Karam Mashour and Jeff Adrien had 15 points each for Herzliya.
Rishon was only the No. 6 seed in last year’s playoffs, but overcame Maccabi Haifa in the quarters before stunning Maccabi Tel Aviv and Hapoel Jerusalem in the Final Four.
Only four players on Rishon’s roster were also part of last season’s triumphant team, with coach Shivek being sacked 20 games into this season before eventually being hired by Maccabi. After four defeats in his first five games in charge, Shmulik Brenner, who was Shivek’s assistant before replacing him, guided the side to six wins in its final eight regular season games to clinch the No. 7 seed.
Eilat had won 11 of 12 home games in 2017, but lost its way on the offensive end in the fourth quarter on Thursday. A Chanan Colman basket with 7:15 minutes to play brought the southerners within just two points (59-57), but Eilat would score only three more points over the next seven minutes, allowing Rishon to build a double-digit margin on the way to a 70-63 win and a 2-1 lead.
Rishon hosts Game 4 on Sunday after winning Game 2 at home by 26 points.
Cameron Long had 22 points for Rishon, with Will Daniels scoring 13 points for Eilat, which has lost four of five games overall after previously winning 15 of 17.
The winner of the series between Rishon and Eilat will face either Hapoel Jerusalem or Ironi Nahariya in the Final Four. Nahariya can wrap up a shock sweep when it visits Jerusalem in Game 3 on Friday holding a 2-0 lead.
“We know we can come back,” said Jerusalem coach Simone Pianigiani.
“Momentum in the playoffs can change in one game.”