Hapoel Jerusalem and Maccabi Tel Aviv all but clinched their spots in the State Cup quarterfinals with blowout wins Sunday night, while a Hapoel Galil Elyon-Golan comeback against Ironi Nahariya ensured an exciting return leg next month.
In all 16 teams were in action in the first of the two-legged, eighth-final round games. The return legs of the home and home series are scheduled for December 4 and the aggregate winners move on.
Nahariya led by as many as 17 points at Kfar Blum, but host Galil never quit and, looking towards the return leg, lost Sunday by only three points, 93-90.
Jason Straight led the way with 25 points, including 15 in the fourth quarter, while Sasa Bratic added 22.
Nahariya cruised through the first three quarters, often seeming to score at will, before Galil's spirited reserves carried the home team back.
The first quarter was evenly played, but the visitors pulled ahead early in the second. They stretched their lead to 12 after Otis Hill converted a three-point play following a technical foul on Straight, before Galil trimmed the lead to 49-41 at halftime.
Galil got within three at the start of the second half, but it was all Nahariya for the rest of the period. The team in purple was more aggressive and active as it pulled away - the highlight coming on an Avi Sukar fast break, where the Nahariya guard dribbled the ball between Lior Eliyahu's legs and went in for a layup.
Straight started the fourth quarter with a three to cut the deficit to 76-65 and his inspired play got the rest of his teammates going. The American rookie continued to lead the way as Galil slowly but surely chipped away at Nahariya's lead, making the return leg in Nahariya all or nothing.
Hill scored 24 and Branko Milisavljevic 19 for Nahariya.
Hapoel Jerusalem 92,Givat Shmuel 63
Hapoel Jerusalem led throughout the game, but couldn't extend its lead beyond 10 points until eight minutes into the third quarter. At that point, with the hosts leading 61-56, their offense exploded, blowing by Givat Shmuel 31-7 over the final 12 minutes of the game.
Roger Mason and Mario Austin led the reds with 22 points each.
"We have a lot of talent, but we are also a team under the pressure of expectations," coach Erez Edelstein said after the game. "I tried to tell the players to just enjoy themselves. Our slogan was 'Just have fun.'"
Hapoel Gilboa Afula 90, Maccabi Tel Aviv 113
Maccabi didn't even dress regular starters Maceo Baston and Anthony Parker against the second division side. Kirk Penney and Jamie Arnold wore yellow-and-blue instead for the first time in domestic action.
Afula was stubborn, keeping it close at halftime (55-50), but the Cup holders ran away in the second half.
In other games, it was: Hapoel Tel Aviv 87, Elitzur Ashkelon 77; Bnei Hasharon 91, Hapoel Lev Hasharon 70; Hapoel Holon 76, Ironi Ramat Gan 101; Ramat Hasharon 71, Maccabi Rishon 68; Hapoel Givatayim 66, Maccabi Petah Tikva 103.
Shani Rosenfelder contributed to this report.