Holon edges Hap J’lem to knot series at one

Shamir’s men snap three-game skid with home win as matchup shifts to Malha.

HAPOEL HOLON's Ron Lewis 370 (photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
HAPOEL HOLON's Ron Lewis 370
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Hapoel Holon leveled its best-of-five BSL playoff series against Hapoel Jerusalem at 1-1 on Sunday, snapping a three-game losing streak to its nemesis with a 72-70 home win.
Holon trailed throughout the fourth quarter and seemed to be doomed after failing to score a single field goal in the first seven minutes of the final frame.
However, Jerusalem completely lost its scoring touch in the final minutes, including from the free-throw line, and Oded Sha’ashoua’s three-pointer with 35 seconds to play gave Holon a one-point lead (71-70) the hosts wouldn’t squander.
“Every game in this series is a battle,” said Holon coach Dan Shamir. “I’m very happy we will return to Malha at 1-1.
“As always in the playoffs, the next game is always the most important one of the series.”
Bryant Dunston had 18 points and nine rebounds for Holon, with Moran Rot adding 15. Ron Lewis and Tasmin Mitchell contributed 14 points each.
“I felt I let the team down in the first game so I came out to make a statement tonight,” said Dunston.
D.J. Strawberry scored 18 for Jerusalem, which hosts Game 3 at Malha Arena on Thursday.
Holon got off to the better start, but Jerusalem was down by just two points (20-18) after one period and Ramel Bradley gave the visitors a 30-29 edge with six minutes to play in the first half, Jerusalem’s first lead since 2-0.
Jerusalem was still ahead at the break (41-36), but the teams were separated by just a single point (55-54) with 10 minutes to play.
Both sides struggled for points in the final frame, but crucially it was Holon which broke out of the slump first to claim a crucial win.
Ironi Ashkelon is one win away from recording a surprise sweep of Maccabi Rishon Lezion after taking a 2-0 lead on Sunday with an 81-80 home victory.
Rishon opened a 28-19 lead after 10 minutes, but Ashkelon outscored the visitors 24-7 in the second period to take a 43-35 gap into the break.
Ashkelon seemed to be cruising when it held a 74-60 margin with three minutes remaining, but Rishon never stopped to fight and Derwin Kitchen’s basket with 13.5 seconds remaining tied the score at 80-80.
However, the comeback would not be completed, with Ashkelon’s Niv Berkowitz hitting his first free throw with 0.6 seconds to play before intentionally missing his second to clinch Ashkelon’s win.
Marco Killingsworth led Ashkelon with 23 points and seven rebounds, while Nitzan Hanochi scored 18 for Rishon, which hosts Game 3 on Thursday.
“We took a big step towards the Final Four tonight,” said Ashkelon coach Eric Alfasi.
“We couldn’t close out the game, but our defense eventually gave us the win. Now we need to finish off the series.”
On Monday, Hapoel Gilboa/Galil, which ended the regular season in second place, faces a crucial game at Maccabi Ashdod after losing the series opener at home, while Maccabi Tel Aviv visits BC Habika’a.