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Hapoel Jerusalem held off a stubborn Maccabi Rishon side 83-77 in a potential playoff preview Monday night in the BSL Matchday 26 finale in Malha.
Mario Austin scored 26 and Horace Jenkins 18 to lead Hapoel, which improved to 17-6, three games ahead of Rishon and Nahariya for second place. Jerusalem travels to Nahariya in Matchday 27 on Thursday. Rishon, which stunned Maccabi Tel Aviv last Thursday, has a bye on Thursday and next plays Nahariya on Sunday.
After the teams traded baskets for much of the opening quarter, which ended tied 19-19, Rishon took a small lead and held on for the rest of the half, leading 35-32 at the break.
Tamar Slay, Jenkins and Austin hit back-to-back-toback threes midway through the third period to put Hapoel up 49-45, but Rishon came back to tie the score and even grab the lead again early in the fourth.
Austin and Meir Tapiro (10 points) carried the reds in the clutch, despite the best efforts of Omar Sneed (28 points), John Gilchrist (8 points) and Lee Mathews (13 points).
Rishon cut the gap to two points three times in the final minute, but Hapoel answered each time, with Austin and Jenkins going 6-for-6 from the line in the last 30 seconds.
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