Basketball: Haifa piles misery on struggling yellow-and-blue

Greens hand Mac TA third loss in four contests, Ashdod still not safe after setback against Nahariya.

Maccabi Tel Aviv’s Yogev Ohayon (photo credit: ADI AVISHAI)
Maccabi Tel Aviv’s Yogev Ohayon
(photo credit: ADI AVISHAI)
Maccabi Tel Aviv is in danger of losing the No. 1 seed in the BSL playoffs after dropping to its third defeat in the past four league games on Sunday, falling 87-78 at Maccabi Haifa.
The yellow-and-blue snapped a five-game losing streak over all competitions with last Thursday’s win over Bnei Herzliya.
However, without the injured Alex Tyus and Brian Randle and the suspended Sofoklis Schortsanitis, Maccabi once more looked disjointed and at stages disinterested to drop to a 24-6 record on Sunday.
Hapoel Jerusalem is one game back of Maccabi ahead of its visit to Bnei Herzliya on Monday.
Jerusalem enters the encounter on the back of a seven-game winning streak, triumphing in 13 of its previous 14 contests.
Haifa burst out of the gate on Sunday, with a Will Graves three-pointer opening a 15-point lead (25-10) at the end of the first period.
The Greens led by as many as 18 points in the second quarter and although the yellow-and-blue tied the score early in the fourth period, Haifa never lost control and pulled ahead to clinch the win.
Ike Ofoegbu had 25 points for Haifa, which improved to 16-15, with Sylven Landesberg scoring 29 points for Tel Aviv.
“We have been executing well at practice and we are clicking now as a team ahead of the playoffs,” said Ofoegbu. “We are not looking at five wins in a row we are just looking to play better basketball.”
The battle against relegation remained undecided on Sunday after Maccabi Ashdod lost 97-82 at Ironi Nahariya. A victory for Ashdod would have secured it another season in the BSL and send Hapoel Gilboa/Galil to the second division.
However, Ashdod’s defeat handed Gilboa a lifeline, with the northerners requiring a win over Hapoel Holon on Monday to remain alive for at least a few more days. With Ashdod owning the head-to-head tiebreaker over Gilboa, Ariel Beit-Halachmi’s team needs to win its final three games and for Ashdod to lose its last two to avoid the drop.
Ashdod led for much of the first period on Sunday, but a 17-3 Nahariya run put it in the driving seat (32-24) and the hosts surged ahead in the second half on the way to a comfortable win.
Kenny Lawson finished with 24 points and 18 boards for the winners, with Mark Lyons and Frank Robinson adding 23 and 21 points, respectively.
Charles Thomas had 21 points and 10 rebounds for Ashdod, which can secure its survival with a victory at Hapoel Eilat on Thursday even should Gilboa beat Holon.
Ironi Ness Ziona claimed a crucial win in the race for a playoff berth on Sunday, beating Hapoel Tel Aviv 72-69.
Ness Ziona moved tied with Hapoel at 15-16 after holding its nerve the better of the two teams in the final minute.
Mitchell Watt finished with 21 points and nine rebounds for Ness Ziona, with Larry O’Bannon leading Hapoel with 15 points.
Also Monday, Maccabi Rishon Lezion (17-14) welcomes Hapoel Eilat (15-15).
Herzliya extended the contract of coach Micky Gorka on Sunday after he led it to seven wins from 12 games following the sacking of Muli Katzurin.