Hapoel Eilat ODED KATASH 370.
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Hapoel Eilat avoided elimination in the most thrilling of fashions on Sunday
night, beating Maccabi Haifa 78-75 in overtime to cut its deficit in the BSL
semifinals to 2-1.
The game at Romema Arena turned on its head several
times, with Haifa seemingly heading to a second straight sweep when it led by 11
points midway through the final quarter.
Eilat was in control when it was
ahead by four points with 20 seconds to play in regulation, but Haifa forced
overtime, only for the southerners to end the game with a 7-0 surge to clinch
“This is massive. We owed our fans after the first two games,”
said Eilat coach Oded Katash. “I want to believe that this victory will give us
the push we need to win the series.”
Larry O’Bannon had 23 points for
Eilat, with Scotty Hopson scoring 21 for Katash’s side, which hosts Game 4 of
the best-of-five series on Wednesday.
Donta Smith led Haifa with 26
Haifa got off to a quick start for the third straight game,
scoring eight of the first 10 points of the night.
However, unlike the
first two encounters of the series, Eilat kept Haifa within arm’s reach and was
down by just three points (18-15) after 10 minutes.
After being cut from
the roster for Game 2 by coach Katash, Hopson returned to be the focal point of
Eilat’s offense once more on Sunday, giving the southerners their first lead of
the night (22-20) early in the second period.
Eilat would go on to lead
by as many as six points (28-22), but it was Haifa which had the edge at the
Both teams struggled desperately on offense in the third
frame, with each scoring seven points in the first seven minutes of the
The game was still up for grabs with 10 minutes to play with the
hosts leading by just four points (49-45). However, Eilat’s inability to score
against Haifa’s stifling defense at the start of the final period seemed to hand
the Greens the win.
A Cory Carr basket took Haifa’s margin to 11 points
(59-48) and the hosts looked to be cruising with just five minutes to
However, Brad Greenberg’s players made the mistake of playing as if
they had already won the game and Eilat consistently ate away at the
A Hopson three-point play followed by an O’Bannon triple capped a
19-4 run which gave Eilat what should have been an unassailable four-point
advantage with just 20 seconds remaining.
However, after scoring two
points from the line, Paul Stoll stole the ball and set up Pat Calathes for an
easy dunk to tie the score at 69-69 and send the game to overtime.
led for much of the extra period as well, but another O’Bannon three tied the
score (75-75) yet again and Eilat would score the final seven points of the
night to clinch a scintillating win.
On Monday, Maccabi Tel Aviv can wrap
up its series against Hapoel Jerusalem when it hosts Game 3 at Nokia
Jerusalem was no competition for the yellow-and-blue in the first
two games of the series, with Maccabi winning by 18 points in the series opener
and holding the lead throughout its 74-68 road win in Game 2 last
“The series isn’t over yet,”
said Maccabi Tel Aviv leading scorer in the series Lior Eliyahu. “The only thing
on our mind is to win another championship.”