Maccabi Tel Aviv returned to winning ways and first place in the BSL standings after surviving a nervy finish against Maccabi Haifa on Monday night, claiming a 97-96 victory at Yad Eliyahu Arena.After winning four games in a row over all competitions, including a triumph in the State Cup, Maccabi’s momentum was snapped with a defeat against Bnei Herzliya last week before being beaten by CSKA Moscow in Euroleague action on Thursday.Another defeat to Haifa would have left it tied on points with Hapoel Holon at the top of the table, had Gregory Vargas’s long-rangeattempt at the buzzer been a few centimeters stronger.But Graves’s shot went out off the rim and Tel Aviv survived to improve to 15-5.Gal Mekel and Colton Iverson scored 21 points each for Maccabi, which will be sweating over the fitness of veteran forward Devin Smith after he had to leave for the locker room early in the game.Will Graves ended an outstanding game with 34 points and eight rebounds for Haifa, which fell to 9-11..“This is an important win after a couple of defeats,” said Mekel. “It feels like teams score amazingly in our arena, but that isn’t an excuse and we need to defend better. We led by eight and could have finished the game, but we let them back into the contest and it was nervy at the end.” A Gregory Vargas basket gave Haifa a one-point edge (90-89) with just over three minutes remaining and the visitors had momentum on their side when Graves’s desperation three-pointer as the shot clock expired opened a 93-89 advantage.The hosts maintained their cool, with Victor Rudd’s floater moving them back in front (95-94) with 43 second to play. Haifa still had a chance to snatch a win at the buzzer after Oz Blayzer stole the ball from Tel Aviv’s inbounds pass, but Vargas couldn’t get an open look and the yellowand- blue survived.Earlier Monday, Maccabi Ashdod snapped a six-game losing streak by upsetting Hapoel Eilat 93-82 and snapping its six-game winning run.Preston Knowles scored 23 points for Ashdod, which improved to 6-14, reestablishing a two-game lead over Maccabi Kiryat Gat in last place.Will Daniels had 17 points for Eilat, which fell to 12-9.Also Monday, Ironi Nahariya defeated Bnei Herzliya 67-64 on the road.Yancy Gates had 17 points for the winners.In other news, Maccabi Rishon Lezion announced on Monday that Shmulik Brenner will replace Arik Shivek as coach. Brenner was Shivek’s assistant and also worked under previous coaches Sharon Drucker and Tzvika Sherf. Shivek guided Rishon to a historic championship last season, but was fired with the team owning a 10-10 record this term.