Maccabi Tel Aviv rebounded from its Euroleague exit with another easy BSL victory on Thursday night, while Maccabi Haifa and Hapoel Gilboa/Galil took a significant step towards clinching home-court advantage in the playoffs with wins over two of the league’s minnows.
Tel Aviv’s continental campaign was brought to a heartbreaking end by Partizan Belgrade in the quarterfinals last week, but locally it has cruised all season long, and that was the case once more on Thursday.
Maccabi beat Bnei Hasharon 83-72 at the Nokia Arena, with the visitors never even threatening the yellow-and-blue.
Haifa thrashed Hapoel Afula 89-67 at Romema and took sole possession of second position in the standings with two games remaining in the regular season.
Gilboa/Galil had a little more trouble against Ironi Nahariya, but a late run ensured it claimed a 73-68 win, keeping it in the top-four and in prime position to clinch home-court advantage.
Barak Netanya’s hopes of finishing in the top-four suffered a hefty blow on Thursday in Holon. Netanya fell to an 84-67 defeat against Hapoel Holon and may well have to beat Maccabi Tel Aviv on the road in its final regular season game to have a chance of ending the season among the first four.
Also Thursday, Maccabi Rishon Lezion secured its place in the playoffs with an 84-70 victory over Ironi Ramat Gan.
Maccabi Tel Aviv 83, Bnei Hasharon 72
Tel Aviv’s victory was never in doubt, with the hosts leading 25-15 after 10 minutes, 44-31 at the break and 64-48 entering a meaningless fourth period.
Guy Pnini scored 26 points, with Stephane Lasme adding 15 points for Maccabi, which hosts Ironi Ashkelon in a postponed game on Saturday night.
P.J. Tucker had 25 points and 11 rebounds for Bnei Hasharon, which has still not clinched a playoff berth and even if it does will likely meet Tel Aviv in the best-of-five series.
Maccabi Haifa 89, Hapoel Afula 67
Haifa surged ahead in the final three minutes of the first period, opening a 27-18 lead after 10 minutes. Maccabi led by as many as 17 points (37-20) in the second quarter, but Afula ended the first half with a 9-1 run and was down by single-digits at the break (38-29).
However, the visitors would come no closer, with Haifa outscoring Afula 29-14 in the third frame to open an unassailable lead.
Davon Jefferson was his usual superb self for Haifa, scoring 22 points and taking 12 rebounds. Dror Hagag and Richard Roby added 18 and 15 points, respectively, for Haifa, which outrebounded Afula 45-25.
Dionte Christmas and Steffon Bradford had 22 and 20 points, respectively, for Afula, which has little to no hope of making the playoffs.
Hapoel Gilboa/Galil 73, Ironi Nahariya 68
Gilboa stunned the visitors with a 21-6 run to start the game and led 36-24 at the half.
The hosts still were ahead by a comfortable margin (59-46) with 10 minutes to play, but a 19-4 run by Nahariya gave it a stunning lead (65-63) with four minutes left. However, Gilboa answered back with an 8-0 run, capped by a Jeremy Pargo three-pointer, to clinch a crucial win.
Pargo scored 15 points for Gilboa, with Brian Randle adding 14 points.
Steven Smith scored 21 points for Nahariya.
“We began the game very well and even after they came back we knew how to do the right things and win the game,” said Gilboa coach Oded Katash, who denied the reports claiming he will be returning to Maccabi Tel Aviv as the assistant coach to Pini Gershon next season.
Hapoel Holon 84, Barak Netanya 67
After a tight first period ended in a 20-20 tie, Holon opened a slender lead at the break (41-35) and pulled away in the third quarter.
The hosts began the second half with a 15-2 run and never looked back on its way to a morale boosting victory.
Sasa Bratic led six Holon players in double-figures with 15 points, while Marco Killingsworth scored 20 for Netanya, which faces an uphill battle to finish in the top four.
Maccabi Rishon Lezion 84, Ironi Ramat Gan 70
Ramat Gan led 18-9 after 10 minutes, but a 14-0 Rishon run gave it the advantage and the hosts were still in front at halftime (35-28).
Ramat Gan closed to within three points (68-65) midway through the
fourth quarter, but Rishon scored the final 10 points of the night to
claim an important win.
Larry O’Bannon scored 18 points for Rishon, with Meir Tapiro adding 10 points, nine assists and seven rebounds.
Chris Watson had 24 points and nine rebounds for Ramat Gan, which remains at the bottom of the standings.