BSL playoff picture still up in the air

Top 3 and bottom 2 will maintain their current positions regardless of Sunday's results, but 7 of the 12 sides have still got plenty to play for.

ironi ashkelon 88 (photo credit: )
ironi ashkelon 88
(photo credit: )
The final six games of the BSL's regular season will be played on Sunday and quite a lot remains to be determined. The top three teams, Maccabi Tel Aviv, Hapoel Jerusalem and Maccabi Haifa, as well as the bottom two, Maccabi Rishon Lezion and Ironi Kiryat Ata, will maintain their current positions regardless of Sunday's results. But seven of the league's 12 sides have still got plenty to play for, making the results from each and every one of Sunday's games crucial to the eventual outcome of the standings and the playoff bracket. Perhaps the most intriguing battle is for the eighth and final quarterfinal playoff berth. Seventh-placed Ironi Nahariya is guaranteed a place in the playoffs regardless of its result on Sunday, but will be hoping to defeat rock-bottom Kiryat Ata on the road to make sure it finishes the regular season in seventh and faces Jerusalem in the last eight rather than Tel Aviv. Ironi Ashkelon also has its playoff fate in its own hands and can secure seventh or eighth place (depending on Nahariya's result) with a home victory against Hapoel Galil/Gilboa on Sunday. However, an Ashkelon loss to Galil will open the door for Ironi Ramat Gan. Ramat Gan will advance to the postseason if it defeats Maccabi Rishon Lezion on the road and Ashkelon loses. Amir Uzi's team can even reach the last eight with a loss, as long as Ashkelon also falters and Maccabi Givat Shmuel beats Hapoel Jerusalem, creating a three-way tie for eighth position, which would send Ramat Gan forward. Any other combination of results will leave Ramat Gan to play for its BSL survival in a relegation playoff. The ninth seed will face 12th and 10th will play 11th in two best-of-five playoff series' from which the losers will drop to the National League. "This is the last game of the regular season and we're disappointed the outcome isn't in our hands as it was until now," Ramat Gan coach Amir Uzi said. "I hope Rishon doesn't enter the game too relaxed because sometimes a team plays good basketball when it's not under any pressure." The battle for fourth place and home-court advantage could prove critical to the identity of the four teams who will progress to the Final Four from the quarterfinal playoffs. Hapoel Holon is currently in fourth and will end the regular season in that position should it win on Sunday. However, the State Cup holder and reigning league champion faces Maccabi Tel Aviv at the Nokia Arena on Sunday, and will need a lot to go its way if it's to become the first team to defeat the yellow-and-blue in a home BSL game this season. Galil will be hoping for a Holon loss, as that will give it a chance of leapfrogging into fourth position. However, Galil not only needs to win its game at Ashkelon and Maccabi to defeat Holon, but also for Bnei Hasharon to lose at home to Maccabi Haifa. A Holon loss combined with Galil and Bnei Hasharon victories will result in a three-way tie for fourth place in which Holon would have the edge. "Ashkelon needs to win to book a place in the playoff and we want to win to try and claim home-court advantage," Galil captain Avishai Gordon said. "This game could decide a lot and we will be ready and composed."