Maccabi Ashdod coach Eric Alfasi breathed a huge sigh of relief last night after his team avoided relegation to the National League, at least for a few more days.
(photo credit: ADI AVISHAI)
Maccabi Ashdod’s hopes of maintaining its BSL status are still alive, but only just after a dramatic night of basketball on Sunday.
Ashdod remained in last place despite beating Hapoel Eilat 86-79 to improve to a 6-21 record. However, it closed to within one game of Bnei Herzliya (7-20) with two regular season contests to play after Herzliya suffered a 92-87 overtime defeat at Maccabi Rishon Lezion.
Herzliya seemed to be heading towards the win it required to officially clinch another season of top-flight basketball, holding a three-point lead with less than five seconds to play.
However, Rishon’s Davin White hit a three from two meters behind the arc with 2.5 seconds to play to force overtime and the hosts controlled the additional five minutes and broke Herzliya hearts.
Tasmin Mitchell led Rishon (9-18), which had nothing to play for, with 21 points and eight rebounds, while White added 19 points and 11 assists. Michael Umeh scored 29 points for Herzliya, which still only requires a single victory from its final two games or one more Ashdod defeat to extend its BSL stay.
Ashdod opened its game with a 9-0 run and led throughout the first half, only to enter the final 10 minutes down by a single point (61-60). However, the hosts were far more determined in the closing stages and have still got an outside chance of avoiding relegation.
“The players deserve every credit for this win after losing to Herzliya last week,” said Ashdod coach Eric Alfasi. “We are still alive, but our heads are still under water and we are hardly breathing. A lot of things have to happen for us to stay up, but we will try and achieve the impossible.”
Kenny Hayes had 31 points for Ashdod, with Nitzan Hanochi scoring 19 points for Eilat, which secured the No. 5 seed in the playoffs despite the defeat.
Eilat (17-10) will likely face Hapoel Tel Aviv (15-11) in the quarterfinals, unless Hapoel beats Haifa (17-9) on the road on Thursday and also defeats Hapoel Jerusalem next week combined with a Haifa loss to Maccabi Tel Aviv.
The battle for the No. 7 seed will be decided on Thursday when Hapoel Gilboa/Galil (13-14) visits Hapoel Holon (13-14).
Gilboa beat Ironi Ness Ziona (15-12) 90-86 behind 30 points from Gerald Robinson. Diamon Simpson led Ness Ziona with 22 points.
Holon defeated Barak Netanya (8-19) 95-71, leading by 20 points (36-16) as early as the start of the second quarter. Scottie Reynolds scored 25 points for Holon, with Rashaun Freeman and Dawan Robinson netting 19 points each for Netanya.