Emphatic win over Haifa maintains Hapoel’s hope of catching league-leader Maccabi Tel Aviv.
By ALLON SINAI
Hapoel Jerusalem remained in the hunt for the No. 1 seed in the BSL playoffs for at least another day on Thursday, while Hapoel Tel Aviv secured the eighth and final post-season berth.Jerusalem beat Maccabi Haifa 90-67 to improve to 24-8 with its 14th win from the past 16 games.However, Maccabi Tel Aviv can officially wrap up first place in the standings with a win over Ironi Nahariya at Yad Eliyahu Arena on Friday, with both teams to play their final regular season game on Sunday.After a surprise setback against Bnei Herzliya earlier in the week, Jerusalem bounced back in emphatic fashion, surging ahead at the end of the second quarter to open a 47-34 lead by the break before cruising in the second half.Lior Eliyahu led Jerusalem with 18 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists, with Will Graves scoring 17 points for Haifa (16-16).Hapoel Tel Aviv had lost four of its previous five games, but had no trouble against the already relegated Hapoel Gilboa/Galil, claiming a 102-80 win to move back to .500 (16-16).Larry O’Bannon had 21 points for Tel Aviv, which opened a double-digit gap by halftime (45- 34) and never looked back. Alex Young scored 22 points for Gilboa.AdvertisementTel Aviv booked its place in the playoffs with one regular season game to spare after Herzliya (14-18) lost 78-75 to Hapoel Holon (17-15).The tight game in Holon came down to the final minute and was ultimately decided by a Jordan Taylor three-pointer (76-73).Sean Evans led Holon with 20 points and 15 boards, with Julian Wright finishing with 22 points and 12 rebounds for Herzliya.Holon moved tied with Maccabi Rishon Lezion in third place, with both teams knowing wins in their regular season finale on Sunday will secure them a place in the top four and homecourt advantage in the best-offive quarterfinals.Hapoel Eilat (16-16) was still in the running for third place before suffering a surprising 96-90 overtime defeat at home to Maccabi Ashdod, which no longer had anything to play for after securing its survival.James Nunnally led Ashdod with 24 points, while Khalif Wyatt scored 20 points for Eilat.Meanwhile, the BSL said it is considering punishing Maccabi Tel Aviv guard Jeremy Pargo for a tweet. Maccabi has been forced to play four times over eight days to end the regular season, something which clearly upset Pargo. “The Winner League schedule is a freakn JOKE!!!” he tweeted.The BSL replied to him on Twitter: “Maybe we shouldn’t have moved a game to help you in the Euroleauge in the middle of the series vs Fener,” before releasing a statement in which it said it expects Maccabi to denounce the player. Maccabi refused to do so, defending Pargo and claiming that the BSL was out of line with its response.