Jerusalem tops Netanya in playoff opener

Hapoel claims 7-point road win over Barak Netanya, which will be looking for a come-back in Game 2 Monday.

HAPOEL JERUSALEM forward Josh Duncan 370 (photo credit: Adi Avishai)
HAPOEL JERUSALEM forward Josh Duncan 370
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Hapoel Jerusalem stole home-court advantage in the BSL quarterfinal playoffs on Wednesday night with an 87-80 win at Barak Netanya.
After an erratic regular season, Jerusalem got the playoffs off to a flying start, moving into an early lead on Wednesday and remaining in front until the final buzzer.
Josh Duncan had 26 points for Jerusalem, with Samardo Samuels scoring 16.
Ramel Bradley netted 26 points for Netanya, which will be looking to bounce back in Game 2 in Jerusalem on Monday.
The three remaining quarterfinals will get underway on Thursday.
On paper, the series between Maccabi Tel Aviv (1) and Hapoel Tel Aviv (8) is the least balanced of all four quarters. However, Hapoel’s stunning victory over Maccabi in the most recent derby means the Reds believe they are capable of at least avoiding a sweep in the quarters, even if a place in the semis seems beyond their reach.“We are proud that we have even reached this stage,” said Hapoel coach Erez Edelstein, who guided the team back to the top flight last year and met expectations this term simply by avoiding relegation. “Clearly Maccabi is a firm favorite. But while we may not have the most talented team in the league, we have gotten stronger with time and we will do our best.” Maccabi lost two straight games in overtime before crushing Netanya on Sunday and coach David Blatt believes his team has turned a corner.
”The derby is always a special game, especially in the playoffs,” Blatt said. “There is a lot of talk about Maccabi suffering from a crisis but we have done an excellent job this season and wrapped up the No.
1 seed long ago. I think we are ready for this series and have gotten back on track.”
Maccabi Haifa hosts Hapoel Gilboa/Galil in game 1 of a showdown that seems set to be far tighter than a typical series between a No. 2 and No. 7 seed.
Gilboa won six straight games before losing a meaningless contest against Maccabi Ashdod on Sunday, while Haifa clinched the runners-up position with a dramatic victory over Hapoel Eilat.
”We believe in ourselves. We are not entering the series thinking we are the underdog,” said Gilboa coach Lior Lubin. “Haifa may have home-court advantage but we are looking to win Game 1.”
Haifa’s win over Eilat means it will benefit from playing a decisive Game 5 at home, should it be required, in both the quarters and the semis ahead of the one-game winner-takes-all final which will take place at the club’s home arena in Romema.“The fact that the final will be played in Romema gives us an added incentive,” said Haifa guard Gal Mekel.
“It’s a dream to play the final on your home court, but we still have a long way to go as we face a tough series with Gilboa.” Also Thursday, Hapoel Eilat (3) welcomes the faltering Maccabi Rishon Lezion (6).
Eilat won five of six games before being edged by Haifa, while Rishon lost six straight encounters before beating Jerusalem in an inconsequential contest on Sunday.
“Each of the eight teams in the playoffs can dream of achieving great things and that is what makes this season so special,” was how Eilat coach Oded Katash summed up this post-season.