Maccabi Tel Aviv lost its BSL playoff opener for a second straight season on Sunday night, suffering a stunning 89-79 defeat to Bnei Hasharon at the Nokia Arena.
Tel Aviv ended the regular season with a 21-1 record, but trailed throughout almost all of Game 1 of the best-of-five quarterfinal series on Sunday.
Bnei Hasharon, which only barely reached the playoffs with a losing 9-13 record, fully deserved to clinch the win and steal home-court advantage.
Dan Shamir's men host Game 2 in Herzliya on Thursday and they will be wise to remember the fate of Ironi Ashkelon last season.
Ashkelon shocked Maccabi in the first game of the playoffs last year, only to lose the next three by a humbling average of 24 points per game.
"We didn¹t learn from our past mistakes and we weren¹t ready," Maccabi coach Pini Gershon said. "We played poorly and they played like men and deserved to win."
Also Sunday, Hapoel Jerusalem survived a scare to claim Game 1 of its series against Maccabi Rishon Lezion, winning 73-69 at the Malha Arena.
And Barak Netanya continued its impressive season by upsetting Maccabi Haifa 88-76 on the road, dominating the floundering Greens.
In the relegation playoffs, Ironi Ramat Gan took a significant step towards another season in the BSL, defeating Hapoel Afula 75-71 on the road.
Gary Forbes had 24 points for Ramat Gan, with Justin Dentmon scoring 20 points for Afula, which could well be heading back to the National League just one season after gaining promotion.
On Monday, Hapoel Gilboa/Galil hosts Ironi Ashkelon in the quarterfinal playoffs, and Hapoel Holon visits Ironi Nahariya in another battle against relegation.Maccabi Tel Aviv 79, Bnei Hasharon 89
The visitors showed their intent from the start, scoring the first five points of the night. Ron Steele torched the Tel Aviv defense and Bnei Hasharon led 32-21 after 10 minutes.
Another Steele basket six minutes into the second quarter gave the visitors their biggest lead of the game (45-30) and Shamir¹s men were suprisingly up 52-42 at halftime.
Tel Aviv still trailed by 12 points (61-49) midway through the third quarter, but an 11-2 run, capped by a Doron Perkins basket, brought the hosts within three points and Maccabi was down by only four points (69-65) with 10 minutes remaining.
A Perkins three at the start of the fourth period gave Tel Aviv its first lead of the night (70-69), but Bnei Hasharon quickly went in front once more and Maccabi couldn¹t buy a basket.
Tel Aviv¹s offense was in complete disarray and Ori Itzhaki¹s free-throws with 2:15 to play opened a double-digit margin (83-73). Maccabi could not come back from that and the visitors celebrated a famous victory.
Steele scored 24 point for Bnei Hasharon, with Sam Clancy adding 18 points and 12 rebounds. Chuck Eidson had 19 points for Tel Aviv, which will be confident of progressing despite the defeat.Maccabi Haifa 76, Barak Netanya 88
A tight first period ended in a 23-22 Netanya lead and the visitors extended their gap to nine points (35-26) midway through the second quarter.
Danilo Pinnock and Tony Washem terrorized Haifa¹s usually excellent defense, scoring 18 and 14 points, respectively, to give Netanya a 48-35 gap at the half.
Matters would only continue to deteriorate for the hosts after that, with Netanya quickly establishing an unassailable cushion.
A Marco Killingsworth basket just over six minutes into the third period opened a 62-42 margin and the visitors cruised to a crucial road victory after taking a 22 point (71-49) margin into the final 10 minutes.
Pinnock ended the game with 30 points and 10 rebounds, scoring all eight of his shots from two-point range. Tony Washem had 26 points and 12 rebounds for Netanya, which hosts Game 2 on Wednesday night.
Jason Rich scored 17 points for the disappointing Haifa, which has now lost three straight games.Hapoel Jerusalem 73, Maccabi Rishon Lezion 69
The hosts were ahead throughout the first half, but found themselves unable open a significant margin. Jerusalem led by a single point (21-20) after 10 minutes and Brandon Hunter¹s three-point play to end the first half gave it a six-point gap (40-34) , its biggest of the night to that stage.
The second half was just as tight as the first, with Jerusalem leading
ahead of the final period, but only by a single point (53-52) and only
thanks to Pooh Jeter¹s three-pointer.
A 7-0 run to start the
fourth quarter opened a promising lead for Hapoel and after another
Jeter three it seemed the hosts were destined to sail to the victory
owever, 10 straight points by Rishon cut the deficit to
just one point and set up a thrilling end to the encounter. The game
would be decided from the free-throw line and Jerusalem secured the win
by hitting five of six attempts from the charity stripe.
had 23 points for Hapoel, with Dijon Thompson and Brandon Hunter adding
11 points each for Jerusalem, which committed just six turnovers.
Ogonna Onyekwe scored 20 points for Rishon, which hosts Game 2 on Wednesday.