BSL Playoffs: Hapoel Jerusalem sweeps series

Goode's team qualifies Final Four; Mac TA, Haifa also win.

HAPOEL JERUSALEM sneed 248.88 (photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
After seven of the first eight games of this season's quarterfinal playoff series were won by the road teams, home-court advantage finally counted for something on Thursday night. All four home teams came away with victories on Thursday, with Hapoel Jerusalem becoming the first side to advance to the Final Four, and Maccabi Tel Aviv, Maccabi Haifa and Hapoel Holon opening a crucial 2-1 series lead ahead of Game 4 on Sunday. Jerusalem defeated Ironi Nahariya 88-80 at Malha Arena, completing a 3-0 sweep and a perfect 13-0 home record this season. Tel Aviv thrashed Ironi Ashkelon 92-69 at the Nokia Arena and Haifa cruised to a 74-61 victory over Bnei Hasharon at Romema. The drama of the night was in Holon, where the hosts edged Hapoel Galil/Gilboa 79-78 after overtime. Also Thursday, Maccabi Givat Shmuel and Ironi Kiryat Ata were relegated to the National League. Maccabi Rishon Lezion defeated Givat Shmuel 90-64 on the road, completing a 3-0 win. Larry Obannon led Rishon with 17 points, with Steffon Bradford scoring 18 points for Givat Shmuel. Ironi Ramat Gan beat Kiryat Ata 100-87 behind Mike Helms' 22 points and will play in the BSL next season yet again. In Holon, the hosts took a 25-16 advantage into the second period and increased their margin as the first half drew to a close, taking a 42-26 lead into the break. Holon maintained a double-digit margin throughout the third quarter and seemed to be in complete control when it led 54-44 with 10 minutes to play. However, Galil never gave up and a Dagan Yavzuri three brought the visitors within five points (56-51). The hosts quickly extended their gap to nine-points (60-51), but the visitors came right back and trailed by just three points (69-66) with one minute remaining. After Holon missed at the one end, Brian Roberts scored a clutch three with 28 seconds to go and sent the encounter into overtime. Holon led at the start of the extra period, but a Gal Mekel jumper with just over a minute to play gave the visitors a 75-74 lead. With 24 seconds remaining Flores tied the score at 77-77 from the line and after Mekel made just one of two free-throws at the other end Flores clinched the win with his accurate free-throw shooting. Tolbert scored 19 points for Holon, with Flores adding 18 points and Uri Kukia contributing 12 points and 14 rebounds. Brad Buckman was outstanding for Galil, scoring 29 points and grabbing 12 rebounds. At Romema, the hosts led 12-10 after 10 minutes, but the start of the second quarter belonged to Bnei Hasharon, which opened a 21-15 advantage after an Ira Newble basket. Maccabi answered with a 13-1 run and led 36-27 at the interval, and opened a 16-point margin (47-31) midway through the third period after two straight Moshe Mizrahi threes. The visitors closed to within nine points by the end of the quarter (59-50) and trailed by just seven points after Belcher scored the first points of the fourth period. However, Bnei Hasharon could come no closer, with Maccabi extending its gap in the subsequent minutes on its way to an easy win and a 2-1 series advantage. Doron Perkins scored 21 points and took 11 rebounds for Haifa, with Davon Jefferson adding 14 points and 10 rebounds. Ousmane Cisse led Bnei Hasharon with 11 points. At Malha, Yuval Neimi provided the spark, while Omar Sneed took over from there and supplied the sizzle as Jerusalem coasted to the series-clinching win behind impressive ball-movement and timely clutch three-point shooting, as well as a transition game that Nahariya simply couldn't keep up with. Sneed led the attack with 22 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists, while Naimi added 19 as the hosts took a large third-quarter lead and held-off a valiant comeback attempt in the fourth quarter before pulling out the eight-point victory. Point guard Moran Rot chipped in with 17 points of his own and kept the pace of the contest moving at a speed that the visitors weren't comfortable competing in. Nahariya came out strong and led 21-16 after the first quarter behind strong play from Yogev Ohayon, Philip Ricci and Jason Williams. However, everything Jerusalem touched in the second quarter seemed to turn gold and in the third period it kept extending its 50-39 advantage it took into the half, making it a full 18-point spread at one point. Someone forgot to tell Nahariya to fold in the fourth and the visiting players kept fighting to keep their season alive, pulling to within two (72-70) before the quarter's half-way point. However, a Naimi three brought the noise level to an ear-piercing high and Rot followed that up with another bucket in transition as Hapoel began to pull away again. Robert Rothbart and Williams led Ironi's scorers in a losing effort with 20 points. At the Nokia Arena, Tel Aviv made its intentions clear when it quickly opened a 12-3 lead. The hosts had a 13-point cushion (24-11) after 10 minutes and would never allow Ashkelon back in the game. A 13-0 run at the start of the second period increased Maccabi's margin to 37-14 and after the first half ended in a 43-27 Tel Aviv lead it was clear the hosts were on their way to another easy win against Ashkelon. Lior Eliyahu scored 21 points for Maccabi, with Tre Kelley netting 12 points for Ashkelon.