Hapoel can smell Final Four berth

J’lem grabs victory in Rishon to take control of series; Haifa evens things with Netanya.

hapoel jlem maccabi rishon 311 (photo credit: BSL)
hapoel jlem maccabi rishon 311
(photo credit: BSL)
Hapoel Jerusalem moved to within a single win of advancing to the Final Four on Wednesday night, defeating Maccabi Rishon Lezion 75-64 on the road to open a 2-0 lead in the BSL quarterfinal playoffs.
Jerusalem had lost four of six league games before winning its final regular season encounter to finish in the runners-up position, and now seems to be hitting form at the perfect time.
Guy Goodes’s team will host Rishon at Malha Arena on Monday, looking to complete a sweep in the best-of-five series and secure a two-week break before the start of the Final Four.
Maccabi Haifa regained home-court advantage in its series against Barak Netanya on Sunday, winning 75-73 on the road in a dramatic encounter to tie the series at 1-1.
Haifa trailed by as many as 17 points in the second period, but tied the score by halftime and clinched the victory in nail-baiting fashion.
Game 3 of the wide-open series will be played in Haifa on Sunday.
Also Wednesday, Ironi Ramat Gan took a significant step towards maintaining its BSL status. Ramat Gan, which won just one of its first 12 games of the season, beat Hapoel Afula 91-84 at the Zisman Arena to take a 2-0 lead in the relegation playoffs.
Gary Forbes had 22 points and 12 rebounds for Ramat Gan, which can relegate Afula with a road victory in Game 3 on Sunday.
Justin Dentmon had 27 points for Afula, which will need to win three straight games if it’s to avoid relegation just one season after gaining promotion from the National League.
On Thursday, Maccabi Tel Aviv will look to rebound from its shock home defeat to Bnei Hasharon, Hapoel Gilboa/Galil will be aiming to open a 2-0 lead when it visits Ironi Ashkelon and Hapoel Holon hosts Ironi Nahariya, trailing 1-0 in the second relegation battle.
Hapoel Jerusalem 75,Maccabi Rishon Lezion 64
The visitors scored the first six points of the night and were ahead 16-11 after 10 minutes. However, Hapoel never really threatened to open a significant gap and Rishon led for much of the second period.
A Pooh Jeter basket gave Jerusalem a 33-32 advantage at the break, but the hosts soon took the lead once more, albeit by an extremely slender margin.
Hapoel took a seven-point cushion (54-47) into the final period after ending the third quarter with a 9-2 run and had a double-figure gap after an Uri Kukia basket (58-47).
An 11-2 run brought Rishon back to within one possession (60-58), but Jerusalem pulled ahead once again and held off the hosts to open a promising 2-0 lead.
Leo Lyons had 16 points and nine rebounds for Jerusalem, with Yuval Naimi, Dijon Thompson and Yogev Ohayon each scoring 10 points.
Larry O’Bannon, Yehu Orland and Meir Tapiro all had 12 points for Rishon, which could well see its season come to an end at Malha next Monday.
Maccabi Haifa 75,Barak Netanya 73
Netanya looked sharp at the start of the encounter and didn’t need long to open a comfortable lead. Marco Killingsworth’s three-pointer gave the hosts a 15-7 lead and Netanya was ahead by double-digits (23-13) after a Tony Washam turnaround jumper.
Davon Jefferson’s 11 first quarter points kept Haifa in the game, but the visitors still trailed 24-15 after 10 minutes.
Netanya continued to extend its margin at the start of the second period and led by 17 points (32-15) at one stage. However, a 12-0 Haifa run brought Avi Ashkenazi’s team right back into the game. Dror Hagag and Jefferson hit their stride and a basket by the American forward tied the score at 36-36 at the interval.
Two more points by Jefferson completed Haifa’s comeback (42-41) and thevisitors led by seven points (49-42) after a Hagag layup.
Netanya ensured there would be a tight finish to the game by closing to within one point (51-50) with 10 minutes to play.
The lead changed hands time and again in the fourth period and thescore was tied at 62-62 with just over three minutes remaining.However, Haifa would score seven of the next eight points to open asix-point margin at a crucial stage and just about held on for the win,with Danilo Pinnock missing a three-pointer at the buzzer.
Jefferson was back to his best for Haifa, scoring 24 points and takingseven rebounds after contributing just eight points in Game 1. Hagagadded 17 points and five assists, with Washam and Killingsworth scoring23 and 18 points, respectively, for Netanya.