BSL Playoffs: Maccabi Tel Aviv, Haifa clinch series

Franco's Hapoel Holon taken to Game 5 decider after 77-55 defeat at Galil/Gilboa.

maccabi tel aviv ironi ashkelon (photo credit: Maya Spitzer)
maccabi tel aviv ironi ashkelon
(photo credit: Maya Spitzer)
Maccabi Tel Aviv and Maccabi Haifa joined Hapoel Jerusalem in the Final Four on Sunday night, while the identity of the fourth qualifier to the season-ending event will have to be decided in a Game 5 between Hapoel Galil/Gilboa and Hapoel Holon on Thursday. Tel Aviv trounced Ironi Ashkelon 97-65, effectively clinching the win by outscoring the hosts 28-6 in the third period. After a tight first three periods in Ra'anana, Haifa seized control of its encounter against Bnei Hasharon, topping the hosts 34-17 in the final 10 minutes to win 87-68 and book a meeting against Jerusalem in the Final Four. "This win gives me a lot of joy and satisfaction," Haifa coach Avi Ashkenazi said. "We've achieved our initial goal, but we've still got a lot to offer in the Final Four." Holon will host Galil on Thursday after being thrashed 77-55 in Gan Ner on Sunday night. After the first three games of the series were won by a combined 10 points, Galil opened a 10-point lead by halftime of Game 4 and gave Holon no chance in the second half. "I can't explain our performance tonight," Holon coach Danny Franco said. "It's a shame this happened, but now we're facing a Game 5." Guni Izraeli's three with just over a minute to play in the second quarter opened a record 15-point margin for Galil (40-25), but Lior Segev kept Holon in the game, scoring his team's final seven points of the first half to bring the visitors within 10 points (40-30). A Lior Lifshitz three closed the gap to six points (43-37), but Galil exploded in the subsequent minutes and clinched the victory with a 33-10 run, ensuring the series would come down to a decisive fifth game. Roberts scored 16 points for Galil, with Gal Mekel and Brian Randle adding 14 points each. Luis Flores and Curtis Withers were Holon's only players in double-figures, scoring 15 and 10 points respectively. At Ra'anana, the hosts led by a slender margin during most of the first period, but a 10-1 Haifa run would mean the visitors had a 26-20 advantage three minutes into the second quarter. Maccabi had a mere one point margin (37-36) going into the break but scored four of the final five points of the third quarter to take a two point lead (54-52) into the final 10 minutes and Doron Perkins' triple at the start of the fourth quarter opened a 59-52 gap. Another Perkins basket midway through the period gave Haifa the first double-digit lead of the night (67-57) and it was clear that it was only a matter of time until the visitors booked their place in the Final Four. Davon Jefferson led Haifa with 23 points and eight rebounds, with Brooks Sales scoring 20 points and Perkins adding 17 points and five steals. Ira Newble was the only ray of light for Bnei Hasharon, scoring 20 points and taking nine rebounds. In Ashkelon, the hosts managed to remain in touch with Maccabi in the first period, trailing 21-17 after 10 minutes. Ashkelon was down by only three points with just over a minute remaining in the first half, but the visitors ended the period much better and Carlos Arroyo's buzzer-beater opened a 44-34 halftime lead. Tel Aviv began the second half with a 10-2 run, opening an 18-point margin (54-36), which only continued to mushroom in the remainder of the encounter. Arroyo ended the game with 21 points, with Marcus Brown scoring 18 points. Rashon Turner capped an excellent season in Ashkelon with 18 points and 10 rebounds. Also Sunday, Elitzur Netanya was promoted to the BSL after an 80-72 victory over Maccabi Hod Hasharon to complete a 3-0 series sweep.