(photo credit: ODED KARNI/BSL)
Defending-champion Maccabi Haifa advanced to the BSL playoff semifinals by the skin of its teeth on Monday night, beating Ironi Ness Ziona 68-67 in overtime in a decisive Game 5 at Romema Arena to clinch a 3-2 series win in the quarterfinals.
The home teams had dominated the first four games of the series, with Haifa winning Games 1 and 3 by an average 14 points and Ness Ziona triumphing in Games 2 and 4 by 23.5 points per contest.
However, Monday’s encounter was as tight as possible and was eventually only decided in overtime.
Both teams had their chances to win at the end of regulation and overtime, but Haifa ultimately made one mistake fewer than Ness Ziona in a nerve-wracking showdown to secure its progress.
Haifa will face Hapoel Jerusalem in the semis, with the best-of-five series to get underway at Malha Arena on Thursday.
Brian Randle had 17 points for Haifa on Monday, with Donta Smith adding 14 points. Tyler Honeycutt had 19 points and 12 rebounds for Ness Ziona, which saw its season end in dejection but can still be delighted with its first ever campaign in the top flight.
Haifa led throughout the first period, but had just a one-point edge (17-16) after 10 minutes.
Honeycutt’s basket early in the second quarter gave Ness Ziona its first lead of the night (20-17) and the visitors still held a three-point gap (33-30) entering the break.
There was very little to separate the teams in the second half, with Ness Ziona taking a three-point advantage (60-57) into the final minute. However, a Randle basket with 16.1 seconds to play tied the score and both teams squandered opportunities to clinch the win in regulation, with Ness Ziona’s Knowles missing at the buzzer.
Ness Ziona would live to rue Knowles’s miss, with a Smith basket giving Haifa a 68-63 margin with 1:48 to play in overtime. The Greens wouldn’t score again until the buzzer, but Ness Ziona couldn’t capitalize and missed a golden opportunity to upset the champion.