(photo credit: BSL)
Maccabi Tel Aviv will be a firm favorite to advance to the BSL Final Four on Thursday night, but it’s anyone’s guess where the two other remaining tickets to the season-ending tournament will eventually end up.
Maccabi visits Bnei Hasharon in Herzliya, and despite its shock defeat in Game 1, it is difficult to see the yellow-and-blue not completing a 3-1 series win on Thursday, especially with Pini Gershon’s men winning the last two games by an average 27.5 points.
Hapoel Gilboa/Galil was the first team to book its place in the Final Four on Monday, beating Ironi Ashkelon by double-digits for a third straight game to complete a 3-0 sweep.
Gilboa is awaiting the winner of the series between Hapoel Jerusalem and Maccabi Rishon Lezion, which was blown wide open following Rishon’s road win on Monday.
Jerusalem seemed to be cruising into the Final Four after winning the first two games, but its home loss in Game 3 has seriously complicated its situation.
“Rishon played well and made the right adjustments to our game,” said Hapoel guard Pooh Jeter, who has scored a combined 16 points in the last two games after going for 23 points in the series opener.
“Now it is our turn to make the adjustments, both offensively and defensively. We are expecting a tough game, but I’m sure we will work out what we need to do to win.”
Hapoel has uncharacteristically struggled at the Malha Arena this season, losing in five of its last seven home encounters. Coach Guy Goodes will at least be feeling confident ahead of Thursday’s showdown at Rishon, with Jerusalem winning five of its last six BSL road games.
“All three games were close and could have gone either way,” said Rishon captain and former Hapoel star Meir Tapiro.
“Jerusalem plays much better on the road, but we will be playing our final game of the season in front of our fans and we are coming to enjoy ourselves and claim the win.”
Should Maccabi get the better of Bnei Hasharon on Thursday it will play the winner of the super-tight series between Maccabi Haifa and Barak Netanya.
Netanya forward Danilo Pinnock scored a stunning three-pointer with 0.2 seconds to play to give his team a 2-1 lead on Sunday, but with the road teams winning all three games to date, the series remains well and truly up for grabs.
Haifa edged Netanya 75-73 on the road in Game 2, but finds itself one loss away from elimination after squandering a four-point lead in the final minute of Game 3.
Nevertheless, Haifa forward Moshe Mizrahi believes the best-of-five series will likely go the distance.
“This series feels like a boxing bout in which every game is a round,” Mizrahi said. “The fight will reach five rounds and I want to believe we will play well and win. We deserved to win Game 3, but a lapse of concentration cost us dearly.
“However, the series is far from over. We have won in Netanya twice this season and there is no reason we shouldn’t be able to do so once more.”
Also Thursday, Hapoel Holon will have to beat Ironi Nahariya at home if
it’s to avoid relegation to the National League two years after winning
Holon trails 2-1 in the relegation playoffs after falling 82-76 in Game
3. All the games in the series so far have been decided by six points
or less and Thursday’s showdown promises to be just as tight.
Ironi Ramat Gan hosts Hapoel Afula on Thursday, and despite its defeat
in Game 3, will be confident of wrapping up the series and maintaining
its BSL status for another season.