Holon has Hap J’lem on the elimination ropes

HAPOEL HOLON’S Bryant Dunston scored 10 points in his team’s important 70-65 win against Hapoel Jerusalem, helping his team to a 2-1 lead in the quarterfinal series.

BRYANT DUNSTON 370 (photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Maccabi Tel Aviv became the first team to advance to the BSL Final Four on Thursday night, but the remaining three tickets remain up for grabs after Hapoel Gilboa/Galil and Maccabi Rishon Lezion avoided elimination with home victories.
Tel Aviv cruised to a 3-0 sweep of BC Habika’a, crushing Avi Ashkenazi’s team 86-59 at Nokia Arena on Thursday after winning Games 1 and 2 by 23 and 35 points, respectively.
No Israeli team has ever come back from 2-0 down to win a playoff series, but Gilboa and Rishon Lezion will be confident of becoming the first next week after defeating Maccabi Ashdod and Ironi Ashkelon, respectively.
Gilboa, which ended the regular season in second place, beat Ashdod 74-60 in Gan Ner, while Rishon, the No. 3 seed, defeated Ashkelon 88-73.
Also Thursday, Hapoel Holon snatched home-court advantage with a 70-65 victory over Hapoel Jerusalem at Malha Arena, taking a 2-1 lead.
Like Ashdod and Ashkelon, Holon will look to close out the series at home on Sunday.
At Nokia, Tel Aviv initially allowed Habika’a to stay within touching distance, but the hosts scored 21 of the final 28 points of the first half to take a 44-32 margin into the break.
A Dion Dowell three-pointer brought Habika’a within two points late in the third period (53-51), but Maccabi ended the third quarter with a quick 12-0 run and the final 10 minutes were used by coach David Blatt to give the likes of youth players Idan Zalmanson and Arad Harari court time.
Richard Hendrix had 16 points nine rebounds for Maccabi, which will face the winner of the series between Jerusalem and Holon in the Final Four semifinals.
Devin Smith and Guy Pnini added 14 points each for Tel Aviv, with Dowell netting 13 for Habika’a.
Gilboa opened a 27-17 lead early in the second quarter with a 14-0 surge in Gan Ner, but Ashdod came right back and trailed by just three points at halftime (38-35).
The hosts still had the edge with 10 minutes to play (49-48) and began the fourth frame with a game-winning 17-2 run.
Romeo Travis led Gilboa with 23 points and 11 boards, with Courtney Fells scoring 15.
Meir Tapiro had 11 points, nine assists and eight rebounds for Ashdod.
Or Solomon’s three-pointer gave Rishon a 27-26 lead against Ashkelon after 10 minutes and Adrian Uter capped a 19-5 run which opened an 11-point gap (43-32).
Effi Birenboim’s men took a 49-41 advantage into the second half and eventually secured the win with a fourth quarter run.
Derwin Kitchen had 23 points, eight rebounds and six assists for Rishon, with Joe Crawford contributing 21 points and nine boards.
Jamie Skeen had 18 points and 12 rebounds for Ashkelon.
At Malha, a 13-0 run gave Jerusalem a 26-19 gap, which soon reached doubledigits (31-21).
The hosts were still in pole position at the break (40-31), but an 18-3 run saw Holon seize control (49-44).
The visitors still had the edge (51-48) with 10 minutes remaining and extended the margin to 65-55 with four minutes to play after a Patrick Sullivan lay-up.
However, the game was far from over, with Jerusalem going on a 9-0 run, capped by an Uri Kukia basket, to close within a single point (65-64) with 56 seconds to play.
However, Ramel Bradley missed a chance to complete the comeback when he missed an open jumper with 30 seconds to play and Holon eked out the win from the free-throw line.
Tasmin Mitchell had 17 points and nine rebounds for Holon, with Ron Lewis adding 16.
Kukia led Jerusalem with 14 points and 12 boards.