Hapoel notches tight OT triumph over Mac Haifa

A 10-1 run to end the first half gave Hapoel a double-digit (46-36) cushion, but Haifa didn’t need long to tie the score.

Sharon Drucker 311 (photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Sharon Drucker 311
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Hapoel Jerusalem rode its luck to claim a 96-93 overtime victory at Maccabi Haifa on Sunday night, strengthening its position in the BSL’s top six with three games remaining in the regular season.
A 10-1 run to end the first half gave Hapoel a double-digit (46-36) cushion, but Haifa didn’t need long to tie the score and the lead would exchange hands numerous times in the remainder of regulation.
Jeremis Smith’s free throws with 23 seconds to play put Haifa in pole position (83-80) to snap its 11-game losing streak, but a lapse of concentration by the hosts allowed Yuval Naimi to send the game to overtime with a clutch three-pointer with 13 seconds left.
That was more than enough to break Haifa’s fragile spirit and Jerusalem finally won an overtime game after losing its previous two encounters in an extra period.
Jerusalem was led by its Israelis on Sunday, with Naimi scoring 23 points, Elishay Kadir contributing 19 points and 10 rebounds and Uri Kukia adding 18 points and eight boards.
Tyler Wilkerson had 24 points and 10 rebounds for Haifa, which is still without a league win since November.
“This was a very important game for us,” said Jerusalem coach Sharon Drucker, whose team maintained a one game lead over Maccabi Ashdod in the battle for sixth place. “We understood that we are in a state of emergency and had to win this game.”
At the end of the regular season, the league will be split into two sections, one with the top six teams and the other with the bottom five, with each team to play once more against the other sides in its section. The top eight teams overall advance to the best-of-five quarterfinal playoffs.
Ashdod won for the fifth time in six games on Sunday, defeating Maccabi Rishon Lezion 80-69 on the road.
Alex Tyus had 24 points and 10 rebounds for Ashdod, which pulled ahead at the start of the fourth quarter.
Nitzan Hanochi scored 17 for Rishon, which lost for just the second time in eight games.
Bnei Hasharon continued its revival under Ariel Beit- Halachmi, beating Ironi Ashkelon 85-84 away from home thanks to Kenny Lawson’s tip-in in the dying seconds.
Dwayne Mitchell gave Ashkelon the lead (84-83) from the free-throw line with 9.2 seconds to play, but Lawson was at the right place at the right time after a LaceDarius Dunn miss.
Dunn ended the game with 30 points and nine rebounds, while Lawson contributed 14 points and seven boards. Mitchell had 18 points for Ashkelon.
BC Habika’a snapped its five-game losing streak on Sunday, thrashing Barak Netanya 79-56 at home.
A Paul Delaney basket midway through the second quarter gave Habika’a a 20- point gap (35-15) and the game was as good as over.
Dion Dowell led Habika’a with 24 points and 11 rebounds, while Adrian Banks scored 26 for Netanya, which lost for the sixth time in seven outings.
Maccabi Tel Aviv visits Hapoel Holon on Monday.