Haifa and Jerusalem on verge of playoff semis

One more win will do it for greens and Hapoel while Eilat levels up series with Rishon Lezion.

Hapoel Jerusalem 370 (photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Hapoel Jerusalem 370
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Maccabi Haifa and Hapoel Jerusalem moved within a single win of advancing to the BSL playoff semifinals on Monday night, while Hapoel Eilat leveled its series against Maccabi Rishon Lezion with a victory on the road.
Haifa edged Eilat for the No. 2 seed in the final game of the regular season and has carried the momentum into the playoffs, comfortably beating Hapoel Gilboa/Galil 93-81 on the road on Monday to take a 2-0 lead in the quarterfinals.
Jerusalem struggled for consistency throughout the regular season, but seems to have hit top form when it matters most, outplaying Barak Netanya for the second time in six days on Monday, winning 87-68 at Malha Arena for a 2-0 advantage.
Eilat suffered a surprise 79-77 home loss to Rishon in Game 1 last week, but rebounded in emphatic fashion on Monday, thrashing Rishon 91-73 on the road.
Haifa took a double-digit gap (53-43) into the half in Gan Ner and remained in complete control after the break to claim an impressive win.
Donta Smith led five Haifa players in double-figures with 24 points and nine assists, with Pat Calathes ending the night with 18 points and 10 rebounds.
Jamar Smith scored 24 points for Gilboa, which faces the prospect of elimination at Romema Arena on Thursday.
Jerusalem scored seven of the first eight points of the game at Malha and never looked back.
Hapoel’s gap reached 18 points (50-32) by the interval, rendering the second half as no more than garbage time.
Samardo Samuels had 22 points for Jerusalem, with Josh Duncan adding 17 points and 11 boards.
Hapoel scored just two three-pointers throughout the game, but still easily defeated Netanya and seems set to face Maccabi Tel Aviv in the playoff semifinals.
Maccabi can also book a place in the last four on Thursday when it hosts Hapoel Tel Aviv at Nokia Arena after taking a 2-0 lead on Sunday.
Ramel Bradley scored 20 points for Netanya, which will hope to keep its season alive when it hosts Game 3 on Thursday.
There was nothing to separate the teams in the first five minutes of the showdown in Rishon, but Eilat soon found its range, particularly from beyond the arc, and led by double-figures (29-19) after 10 minutes.
Eilat scored just 12 points in the second period, but Rishon didn’t fare much better, netting only 13. The southerners effectively clinched the victory by outscoring the hosts 27-18 in the third frame to open an 18-point margin (68-50) from which Rishon was never going to come back.
Larry O’Bannon had 22 points for Eilat, which shot 13-of-24 from threepoint range and will be confident of taking the lead in the series when it hosts Game 3 on Thursday.
Promising 19-year-old Shawn Dawson led the beleaguered Rishon with 15 points.
“We made a massive effort and it isn’t easy to win in Rishon,” said Eilat guard Afik Nissim, who had 16 points.
“Rishon is a good team, but so are we.
We knew we would triumph on the road, but we still have two more games to win to reach the semis.”