Bnei Herzliya coach Muli Katzurin breathed a huge sigh of relief last night after his team secured its BSL survival with an 80-79 victory over Hapoel Eilat..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
After four years, Maccabi Ashdod was relegated from the BSL on Wednesday night, losing 80-60 to Hapoel Holon to end the regular season in last place.
Ashdod occupied the bottom of the standings for almost the entire season, but entered its final game with real hope of surviving. Two consecutive wins combined with two straight Bnei Herzliya losses meant that the battle against relegation came down to Wednesday’s contests.
Ashdod required another victory and another Herzliya defeat to complete an unlikely comeback and secure its topflight status.
However, it capitulated in the final quarter against Holon, which had nothing to play for, and will play in the National League next season.
Holon led for much of the first three periods as well, but Ashdod was within just six points (56-50) with 10 minutes remaining, only to be outscored 24-10 in the final frame.
Isaac Rosefelt led Holon (15- 14) with 12 points. David Cubillan had 17 points for Ashdod (7-22).
Herzliya guaranteed its survival without Ashdod’s help, beating Hapoel Eilat 80-79.
Herzliya took an 11-point gap (64-53) into the final 10 minutes, but squandered it in characteristic fashion.
Fortunately for Muli Katzurin’s men, Aviram Zelikovic hit both of his free throws with nine seconds to play and Yuval Naimi’s miss at the buzzer ensured Herzliya maintained its top-flight status.
Michael Umeh scored 24 points for Herzliya (8-21), with Zelikovic adding 21 points. Terrico White had 21 points for Eilat (18-11), which knew it would be facing Hapoel Tel Aviv in the quarterfinal playoffs before Wednesday’s game.
“We should have secured our survival long ago, but at least we finally did so tonight,” said Katzurin. “We knew Ashdod wouldn’t give up until the end, but I’m happy we did our part.”
Also Wednesday, Ironi Ness Ziona beat Maccabi Rishon Lezion 87-71.
Mitchell Watt led Ness Ziona (16-13) with 25 points, while Davin White scored 14 for Rishon (9-20). Ness Ziona will face Maccabi Haifa in the quarterfinal playoffs.
Hapoel Tel Aviv hosts Hapoel Jerusalem on Thursday.
Jerusalem needs a win and a Maccabi Tel Aviv loss to Haifa next week in order to claim the No. 1 seed.
A Jerusalem loss or a Maccabi win next week will mean the yellow-and-blue will end the regular season in first place.
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