Jerusalem on the brink after Nahariya loss

Northerners one win away from Final Four after taking 2-0 lead with home win over favorite Hapoel.

Ironi Nahariya forward Scotty Hopson celebrates after last night’s 77-64 win over Hapoel Jerusalem at Ein Sara Arena (photo credit: ERAN LUF)
Ironi Nahariya forward Scotty Hopson celebrates after last night’s 77-64 win over Hapoel Jerusalem at Ein Sara Arena
(photo credit: ERAN LUF)
Hapoel Jerusalem’s hopes of reaching the Final Four are hanging by a thread after it dropped to a 2-0 deficit against Ironi Nahariya on Monday night, losing 77-64 on the road.
Only two teams have ever come back from a 2-0 hole in BSL playoff history, Hapoel Eilat against Maccabi Tel Aviv two years ago and Maccabi Rishon Lezion versus Ironi Ashkelon in 2012.
Jerusalem will need to become the third team to do so to avoid a shock exit in the best-of-five quarterfinals, being outplayed in the second half on Monday after being stunned by Scotty Hopson’s buzzer-beating three-pointer in the series opener at home.
“This is a big win, but nothing is over yet,” said Nahariya coach Eric Alfasi. “We are facing a very strong and deep team.”
Nahariya took a three-point advantage (23-20) into the second quarter and opened its biggest lead of the first half (33- 25) after going on an 8-0 run. However, Jerusalem had the edge at the break, ending the first half with an 11-2 surge (36-35).
Nahariya scored the first two points after the interval through Hopson and never trailed again. The hosts led by six points (56-50) with 10 minutes to play and dominated the final frame. Jonathan Skjoldebrand’s three gave the hosts a 19-point gap (74-55), capping an 18-5 run with just over three minutes to play from which Jerusalem had no chance of coming back. Game 3 will be played in Jerusalem on Friday.
Skjoldebrand led five Nahariya players in double figures with 16 points. Lior Eliyahu had 13 points for Jerusalem, which was playing without Amar’e Stoudemire for a second straight game.
The playoffs continue on Wednesday night with Game 3 of the series between No. 1 seed Hapoel Holon and No. 8 Maccabi Haifa.
Despite only qualifying for the playoffs on the final day of the regular season, Haifa proved it is more than capable of becoming the first No. 8 seed to knockout a top seed in BSL post-season history when it thrashed Holon 101-70 in Game 2.
Holon won Game 1 at home in double- overtime. Game 4 will be played in Haifa on Sunday night, being postponed by a day to the request of both teams.
Game 3 in the remaining series’ will be played on Thursday. Maccabi Tel Aviv can become the first team to advance to the Final Four when it hosts Bnei Herzliya with a 2-0 lead. Maccabi co-owner David Federman revealed in an interview to Channel 2 on Monday that head coach Arik Shivek agreed to take charge of the team without signing a contract or agreeing financial terms.
“We have a gentleman’s agreement with Shivek. He said he is willing to help and until now we haven’t spoken about what he will be paid,” said Federman, before club chairman Shimon Mizrahi added that “we will know how to reward him”.
Shivek replaced Ainars Bagatskis two weeks ago following the completion of the regular season, becoming the team’s fourth coach of 2016/17. The Latvian was appointed last December, with Rami Hadar resigning following less than two months at the helm after beginning the season as an assistant coach to Erez Edelstein.
Also Thursday, No. 2 seed Hapoel Eilat hosts Maccabi Rishon Lezion in Game 3, aiming to bounce back from a 26-point thrashing in Game 2 in Rishon which tied the series at 1-1.