Hap J’lem books Final Four berth

Katash's team complete sweep of Maccabi Ashdod.

hapoel jerusalem 311 (photo credit: (FIBA EUROPE website))
hapoel jerusalem 311
(photo credit: (FIBA EUROPE website))
Hapoel Jerusalem became the first team to secure its place in the BSL Final Four on Wednesday, beating Maccabi Ashdod 86-76 to complete a 3-0 series sweep.
Jerusalem was far from consistent in its playoff series, but Oded Katash’s team knew how to do just enough to get the better of Ashdod and return to the Final Four for the fifth time in six years.
“We played well tonight and some of the basketball we displayed can get us far in the Final Four,” Katash said.
“We now have almost two weeks to fine-tune the team and make sure we are ready for the Final Four. I think that we are in a pretty good state.”
Jerusalem pulled ahead early on Wednesday, opening a 27-10 lead.
However, Hapoel allowed Ashdod back into the game by only scoring eight points in the second period, only to end the third frame with a 12- 3 run and open a double-digit margin the visitors never really threatened to erase.
After being left on the bench throughout Game 2, Jerusalem welcomed Will Solomon back into the fold, with the American guard scoring 21 points in 22 minutes, including five threepointers.
Yuval Naimi and Brian Randle added 19 and 10 points, respectively, for Jerusalem, which now has 12 days to prepare for its Final Four semifinal meeting against the winner of the series between Hapoel Gilboa/Galil and Hapoel Holon.
Lorenzo Gordon had 24 points for Ashdod, which despite being swept will be pleased with its first ever season in the BSL.
Maccabi Tel Aviv will look to join Jerusalem in the Final Four on Thursday when it hosts Barak Netanya at Nokia Arena with a 2-0 lead in its first game since losing in the Euroleague final to Panathinaikos on Sunday.
Tel Aviv claimed easy wins in the first two games of the series and will be a massive favorite to secure its place in the season ending tournament on Thursday.
Nevertheless, coach David Blatt remains wary of Netanya after Sunday’s disappointment.
“It won’t be easy to lift the players for this game, I would be lying if I said otherwise,” Blatt said. “It will take us some time to get used to the Israeli league once more, but we are already facing a game and I hope that by the time the Final Four starts we will be ready both physically and mentally.”
Also Thursday, reigningchampion Gilboa will aim to take a 2-1 lead when it hosts Holon, with Maccabi Rishon Lezion visiting Bnei Hasharon in another quarterfinal series which is tied at 1-1.
In the relegation playoffs, Maccabi Haifa welcomes Ironi Ashkelon after the two teams split the first two games of the series.