Katash, Eilat force decisive game 5 vs Mac Haifa

Hapoel Eilat is one win away from becoming just the second team in Israeli basketball history to come back from 0-2 down.

June 6, 2013 00:02
2 minute read.
Hapoel Eilat coach Oded Katash.

Hapoel Eilat ODED KATASH 370. (photo credit: Adi Avishai)

Hapoel Eilat is one win away from becoming just the second team in Israeli basketball history to come back from 0-2 down in a best-of-five playoff series after drawing level with Maccabi Haifa in the BSL semifinals on Wednesday night with an 82-72 victory in Game 4.

Eilat looked dead and buried after losing Game 2 at home by 21 points, but it eked out a 78-75 overtime triumph on the road earlier this week and will have a chance to complete the comeback on Sunday after toughing out yet another win in its final home game of the season on Wednesday.

”We still have some work to do to reach the final,” said Eilat coach Oded Katash, who has never lost a playoff series in his career. “We had some rough minutes in the first half and we were shorthanded towards the end, but we got the win.”

Despite the psychological blow which accompanies dropping a two-game lead, Katash is not expecting anything but Haifa’s best in the decisive showdown next week.

“Haifa proved today that it’s a strong team, playing well after a tough loss in Game 3,” Katash explained. “They are a tough nut to crack, but so are we.”

Since the playoff format was introduced in the 1989/90 season, only last season’s Maccabi Rishon Lezion side has managed to recover from a two-game deficit, beating Ironi Ashkelon 3-2 in the quarterfinals.

Only 11 of the 77 best-of-five series’ played over the past 23 years came down to a fifth game, with the home team winning in nine of the 11 deciders, an encouraging stat for Haifa.

”It was a very competitive and physical game,” said Haifa coach Brad Greenberg. “We committed some costly turnovers, but we’ll be fine. We worked all year to finish in second place to have home-court advantage in Game 5 and now we get to play the most crucial game of the season at home.”

After being cut from the roster for Game 2 by Katash, Scotty Hopson shined for the hosts yet again on Wednesday, finishing with 21 points, 11 rebounds and six assists. Eli Holman added 14 points, with Afik Nissim scoring 13 for Eilat, which lost in both its visits to Haifa in the regular season.

Donta Smith had 21 points and 10 boards for Haifa, with Paul Stoll adding 13 points.

Maccabi Tel Aviv awaits the winner of Sunday’s Game 5 in the BSL final at Romema Arena on June 13.

Haifa was in control after the first quarter (25-14) and its lead reached 13 points (27-14) following Smith’s basket at the start of the second period.

Eilat got back into the game with an 8-0 run and closed to within three points (45-42) by the break.

The hosts took the lead at the start of the second half, but the game was wide open with 10 minutes to play, with Eilat holding a 56-55 edge.

The game continued to go back and forth until two big plays by Eilat clinched the win. A Tony Younger threepointer was followed by a three-point play from Eli Holman with 1:27 to play, opening a four-point lead (73-69) which Eilat only increased to force a decisive Game 5 next week.

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