(photo credit: BSL)
Despite beginning the evening in fifth position, Hapoel Jerusalem concluded the BSL regular season in second place on Sunday night, defeating Maccabi Haifa 78-74 at Romema to claim home-court advantage in the quarterfinal playoffs and ensure it will not meet Maccabi Tel Aviv at least until the Final Four title game.
Jerusalem, which had lost five of its previous eight league games, led throughout Sunday’s encounter and held off a late Haifa run to clinch the runners-up position behind Tel Aviv.
Jerusalem will play Maccabi Rishon Lezion in the best-of-five quarterfinal series, with Rishon finishing the regular season in seventh place after defeating Ironi Ashkelon 81-73 on Sunday.
Maccabi Tel Aviv thrashed Barak Netanya 88-60 at the Nokia Arena, improving to a 21-1 record and avenging its one and only BSL defeat of the campaign.
Maccabi will face Bnei Hasharon in the last eight, with Bnei Hasharon beating Ironi Nahariya 78-66 in Herzliya to clinch the eighth and final playoff berth.
Hapoel Gilboa/Galil will have home-court advantage against Ashkelon in the playoffs thanks to its 85-79 win over Hapoel Afula on Sunday.
In what looks to be the tightest of the quarterfinal series, Haifa will face Netanya.
Meanwhile, Hapoel Holon suffered an embarrassing 90-66 home loss to Ironi Ramat Gan on Sunday and will play Nahariya in the relegation playoffs after ending the regular season rock-bottom of the standings.
Ramat Gan will face Hapoel Afula in another battle against relegation. Maccabi Haifa 74, Hapoel Jerusalem 78
The visitors got off to a quick start, opening an 8-2 lead after two-and-a-half minutes.
Haifa’s defense failed to reach its usual standards, and with the hosts also struggling on offense, Jerusalem took a 21-12 gap into the second quarter.
A Richard Roby three-pointer brought Maccabi within three points (25-22), but Hapoel would go on a 14-4 run after that to extend its margin to double figures (39-26).
Amit Ben-David’s three to end the first half cut the deficit to 39-29, but Jerusalem extended its lead once more at the start of the second half, leading at one stage by 15 points before taking a 63-51 advantage into the fourth quarter.
Jerusalem seemed to be cruising at the beginning of the fourth period, but a 14-4 Haifa run brought the hosts within just two points (72-70) with less than two minutes to play.
However, in Hapoel’s next possession Pooh Jeter hit a clutch triple to give the visitors a cushion they would not lose until the end of the encounter.
Dijon Thompson led Jerusalem with 17 points and 11 rebounds, with Jeter adding 15 points.
Amit Ben-David had 18 points for Haifa, but Davon Jefferson scored just 11 points while taking 11 rebounds and Avi Ashkenazi’s team faces a very tough series against Netanya.Maccabi Tel Aviv 88, Barak Netanya 60
After a tight opening five minutes, Netanya pulled ahead, leading 17-10 at one stage. However, the visitors led just 19-14 after 10 minutes and Maccabi seized control in the second period, leading 38-31 at the break.
A 7-0 Netanya run to start the second half tied the score at 38-38, but
the visitors couldn’t complete the comeback and David Bluthenthal’s
three gave Tel Aviv a 61-47 advantage with 10 minutes to play,
rendering the fourth period meaningless.
Alan Anderson had 15 points for Maccabi, with Tony Washam scoring 21 points for Netanya.
Bnei Hasharon 78, Ironi Nahariya 66
The hosts got off to a blistering start, opening a 16-3 lead midway
through the first quarter after a Shawn James basket. Two points by Ron
Steele gave Bnei Hasharon a 28-14 lead after 10 minutes, but Nahariya
continued to fight and was down by just seven (37-30) at halftime.
Bnei Hasharon regained a double-digit cushion yet again at the start of
the second half and for all of Nahariya’s efforts, Dan Shamir’s men
sailed to the important win and booked their place in the playoffs.