Tamar Slay 298.88.
(photo credit: Blake-Ezra Cole)
Ironi Nahariya took an emphatic step towards clinching third place in the BSL by convincingly defeating Maccabi Rishon 77-67 Sunday night in Rishon Lezion to take a 11â„2-game lead in the standings.
Otis Hill overcame early foul trouble to score 19 points and grab seven rebounds to lead a balanced Nahariya attack with four players in double figures.
As the Final Four playoffs draw closer, the top of the standings is starting to look set, with perennial champion Maccabi Tel Aviv in first and Hapoel Jerusalem in second, followed by Nahariya and Rishon.
Bnei Hasharon and Elitzur Ashkelon, which are currently tied for fifth, trail Rishon by two games with five to go.
In Sunday's other action, Jerusalem survived a nail-biter at home against Galil, Maccabi Givat Shmuel kept its winning streak intact by edging Bnei Hasharon and Ramat Hasharon began to see its chances of another season in the BSL diminish with a defeat to Ashkelon.
Matchday 28 draws to a close Monday night when Maccabi hosts Hapoel in the Tel Aviv derby.
At Rishon Lezion, the visitors blew the game open in the second quarter, outscoring Rishon 25-11 in the frame. Back-to-back lay-ups from Jayson Wells and a bucket by Hill towards the end of the quarter quickly turned a nine-point game into a 15-point game, and Rishon never recovered.
Perhaps Rishon, which defeated Maccabi Tel Aviv twice this season, believes that its best chance to reach the league final is by playing Maccabi in the semifinals, because the hosts played an ugly game from start to finish, never showing any urgency to get out of the fourth spot in the league. A win would have just about wrapped up third place for coach Guy Goodes and co.
Rishon helped out Nahariya by shooting a putrid 15-of-28 from the free-throw line and turning the ball over 17 times.
John Gilchrist (15 points), Omar Sneed (14 points, 10 rebounds), and Lee Matthews (12 points) tried to bring Rishon back into the game on multiple occasions, as the hosts cut the deficit down to five on two Gilchrist free throws midway through the third quarter. But for every Rishon run, Hill and co. had an answer, and Nahariya led comfortably the rest of the way.
Alvin Young had 15 points, Barak Peleg continued his solid play with 14 points and three steals, and Wells chipped in with a double-double of 10 points and 12 rebounds to move Nahariya to 15-11 in the league.
Hapoel Jerusalem 88,Galil-Golan 85
Meir Tapiro drilled a pair of free throws with 4.7 seconds to go to give Jerusalem a three-point lead and Lior Lipshits missed a prayer at the buzzer that would have tied the gave as Jerusalem held off visiting Galil.
Tamar Slay stood out with 15 points, 10 rebounds and five assists and Horace Jenkins scored 17, but the story for the hosts was the spirited play of forgotten reserve Raviv Limonad. The guard, given a rare chance to contribute in the second quarter, inspired his teammates and the crowd with his hustle on both ends of the floor.
Coach Erez Edelstein even let the 22-year-old start the second half, which paid off as Jerusalem built its biggest lead, 60-46. But five-and-a-half minutes into the third quarter, Limonad picked up his fourth foul and didn't play again, finishing with a season-high nine points, three assists and three steals.
Bryant Smith went 6-for-6 from beyond the arc for 28 points and Lior Eliyahu posted 15 points, six rebounds and five assists in defeat.
Galil clawed its way back throughout the fourth quarter and finally tied the score at 82 on a pair of Yordon Bozov free throws with 1:18 remaining. But after Roger Mason Jr. put the hosts back up by two, Bozov missed a crucial free throw with 17.2 seconds on the clock and Oded Katash's side wasn't able to make up the missing point.
Maccabi Givat Shmuel 85, Bnei Hasharon 81
Givat Shmuel remained the hottest team in the league, winning its sixth straight and eighth out of its last nine games by beating Bnei Hasharon at Or Yehuda.
Timmy Bowers scored 19 points, Moshe Brenner added 16, and Jay Straight chipped in with 14 in the winning effort.
Givat Shmuel, which not long ago was seen as certain to be relegated, improved to 10-16, a game-and-a-half ahead of idle Ironi Ramat Gan above the red line.
Givat Shmuel led by as much as 18 points after a Straight three with 3:52 remaining in the third quarter. But Terrence Rencher (22 points) led a furious comeback and knocked down a three with 33 seconds left to bringing the visitors within one.
However, after Amit Tamir made one of two free throws to make it an 83-81 game, Rencher missed a potential go-ahead three with three seconds left to seal the win for the hosts.
Ousmane Cisse had 19 points and 15 rebounds for Bnei Hasharon, who fell to 12-13.