Basketball: Nahariya clinches final four birth, J'lem out

Nahariya, which has won six of seven games sinch coach Bosani took charge, has clinched a Final Four berth.

Israel basketball 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
Israel basketball 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
Ironi Nahariya clinched the last remaining Final Four berth on Tuesday night, thrashing Ironi Ramat Gan 115-88 at Ein Sara. Nahariya, which has won six of seven games since coach Roni Bosani took charge, will face Hapoel Holon in the Final Four next Tuesday at the Nokia Arena, with Maccabi Tel Aviv playing Bnei Hasharon in the other semifinal. An early 16-0 run gave Nahariya a stranglehold on its must-win game against Ramat Gan and the host was never in any danger of losing the encounter. "My players really wanted to win," Bosani said after the game. "I didn't think we would win by such a margin, but we deserve this. We played well on both offense and defense in the last two months and we deserve to be in the Final Four." John Gilchrist scored 24 points for Nahariya, with Otis Hill adding 21 points and 10 rebounds. Ido Kozikaro and Matan Naor were both superb for the hosts, scoring 17 and 16 points, respectively. Michael Kuebler led Ramat Gan with 18 points. Nahariya's victory rendered the day's remaining games meaningless as it meant that neither Hapoel Jerusalem nor Ironi Ashkelon could leapfrog the northerners, regardless of the outcome of their games. Ori Itzhaki's three-pointer at the start gave Ramat Gan a surprise 5-0 lead and the hosts looked to be in shock. It would prove, however, to only be a fleeting lapse in concentration by Nahariya, which quickly seized control of the encounter. A Hill basket tied the score at 5-5 and Naor's three midway through the first period capped a 16-0 run, which gave the hosts a 16-5 lead. The margin mushroomed as the quarter progressed, with Nahariya surging to an unassailable advantage. Hill continued to dominate under the baskets and another Naor triple extended the gap to 21-6. Five straight Gilchrist points to end the period gave the hosts a 34-15 lead and an acrobatic Ashante Johnson dunk opened a 25-point margin (42-17). Ramat Gan was playing dreadfully to put it mildly and even used its second string players at one stage as a protest for what it claimed was hostile refereeing. Nothing the visitors would do, however, made even the slightest dent in Nahariya's comfortable gap and Bosani's men were in front 60-40 at the break. The second half was pure garbage time as Nahariya cruised to the Final Four, capping Bosani's remarkable two-month turnaround. Also Tuesday, Hapoel Jerusalem's disappointing season ended in an appropriate manner. Ziv Erez's team lost 94-88 at Hapoel Galil Elyon, with Jawad Williams scoring 22 points. Maccabi Tel Aviv won its second straight league game on Tuesday, defeating Maccabi Rishon Lezion 94-82 behind Terence Morris's 18 points and 10 rebounds. Maccabi's opponent in the Final Four, Bnei Hasharon, fell 92-80 to the relegated Hapoel Afula/Gilboa, with Jermaine Hall scoring 23 points. League leader Holon completed a remarkable regular season, defeating Ashkelon 102-96 after overtime, winning for the 17th time in 19 games.